Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder is mistaken if he thinks his Premier League high-fliers aren’t appreciated after his outburst about long-ball tag
- Chris Wilder suggested his Sheffield United side are underappreciated by some
- United are seventh in the table after a 1-1 draw at home to Brighton on Saturday
- The Premier League newcomers are challenging for a Champions League place
It was either a cute ploy to motivate his players still further, or Chris Wilder has not grasped the appreciation for his side beyond Sheffield.
In the wake of this home draw against Brighton, the Blades boss delivered a message to those who think his team are a Championship outfit who simply boot the ball forward: go back and watch the previous 90 minutes.
Wilder’s outburst was strange. Not because he is wrong but because there are very few, if any, observers who do not know exactly what Sheffield United are about, and that is far from a team who simply lump it upfield. They could do, especially with 6ft 2in Oli McBurnie as a target man. Except McBurnie’s best work is with his feet.
Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder felt his side received criticism for adopting direct tactics
Wilder went on the defensive after his side drew 1-1 at home to Brighton in the Premier League
So Wilder’s claims that there are some who fail to understand his team felt misplaced. Unless, of course, it was a tactic to reinforce a siege mentality among a squad who continue to confound pre-season expectation.
Brighton head coach Graham Potter spoke of the Blades’ ‘identity’ and admitted his own team had been forced to abandon theirs in pursuit of a result, so good were their opponents. Credit also to Potter for doing so and emerging with a point they barely deserved after Neal Maupay had cancelled out Enda Stevens’ stunning opener.
But the point for the home side was perhaps more significant, given that it took them to the traditional watermark for survival of 40.
Not since the first Premier League campaign of 1992-93 have the club survived a top-flight season and Wilder returned a knowing smile when their achievement was mentioned on Saturday night.
‘I’d like to think that gives us another season at this level,’ he said. ‘We’re a bit disappointed we have not added another two points to it, but that’s not for the want of trying. To get to 40 is great but we are after more. We are in a groove, we are in a good place.’
The Blades are after a Champions League spot and have all but secured their top-flight status
It would feel unjust were their journey not to end in European football, especially if Manchester City’s continental ban stands. For what Wilder has done is a victory for management, proof that one man on the touchline can impact so greatly over a team who, on paper, read a little like second-tier misfits.
On grass, though, they are Premier League stars, and so is their manager. If he does not realise that, the rest of us certainly do.
MATCH FACTS AND TEAM LINEUPS
Sheffield United (3-5-2): Henderson 6; Basham 6, Egan 6, O’Connell 6.5; Baldock 6.5, Berge 6 (Lundstram 81min), Norwood 6.5, Fleck 7.5, Stevens 7 (Osborn 46, 6); McBurnie 6.5, Sharp 6 (McGoldrick 74, 5.5)
Subs not used: Jagielka, Verrips, Mousset, Retsos. Scorer: Stevens 26
Manager: Chris Wilder 7
Brighton (5-2-1-2): Ryan 6; Schelotto 6 (Trossard 75, 5), Dunk 6, Webster 6, Duffy 6, Burn 6.5; Bissouma 6.5, Propper 5.5; Mooy 6; Maupay 6.5 (Bernardo 90), Murray 5.5 (Connolly 75, 5)
Subs not used: Gross, Jahanbakhsh, March, Button. Scorer: Maupay 30
Booked: Bissouma, Propper
Manager: Graham Potter 6.5
Referee: Graham Scott 7
Referee: Anthony Taylor
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