Chris Wilder

Wilder, Sheffield United continue to live the dream

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Chris Wilder and Sheffield United continue to live the dream in the Premier League.

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Their 1-0 win against Wolves on Wednesday, courtesy of a last-gasp winner from John Egan, made it back-to-back home wins after beating Tottenham last week and the Blades are still in the hunt for Champions League qualification with four games to go.

ProSoccerTalk spoke to a delighted Wilder after the game and simply asked: did this tight win against Wolves sum up everything that’s been great about Sheffield United’s return to Premier League this season?

“I think so. We like to think we’ve brought something in terms of our attitude and our performances to get the results that we’ve got,” Wilder said. “We had a stretched squad and really had to dig in to get a result. I don’t think you get the result and the performance tonight if you haven’t got something with the ball and I think we did have something with the ball and out of it everybody did a job and tried to stop a very, very talented side from gaining momentum and dominating us. Second half, especially, we looked and it felt like we were really desperate to go and get a winner. Regardless of how late its come, we’ve been rewarded for that attitude.”

That attitude, skill and desire has Sheffield United four points off a potential Champions League place with four games to go. After a bad start to the restart they’ve taken seven points from their last three games and sit in seventh place in the table.

Does this win, one that Wilder called the biggest since he’s been at the club, mean the Champions League is still in reach?

“We’ve never felt like anything is within our grasp. All we’ve looked at is the next result. We shouldn’t be anywhere near the position we are in but we are for a reason because we get our heads down, take a defeat on the chin and come roaring back,” Wilder told ProSoccerTalk. “As I said, it was a very chastening afternoon at Old Trafford recently and the reaction is not a surprise to me. It has to be that way right the way through. Please don’t tell me the fixture list because I know it and I don’t want to think about it too much tonight!”

They have Chelsea, Leicester City, Everton and Southampton left to play and four wins from that lot could see them sneak fifth place which may be a Champions League spot depending on whether or not Man City’s UEFA ban is upheld. The Blades are in dreamland and at this point they are well on track to qualify for the Europa League and that would be a phenomenal achievement.

Following Egan’s stoppage time winner against Wolves, Wilder roared down the touchline in celebration towards The Kop.

There were obviously no fans in attendance but the local lad who is managing the club he supports summed up that moment and how proud he was of the win against a fellow Champions League hopeful, as they’ve come a long way since League One when he took charge in 2015.

“You take yourself out of the situation regarding 30,000 fans of our own supporters. I don’t think I need to explain how much we’ve missed them. I’m delighted and proud of the performance,” Wilder added. “I’ve got to say, on the second half we’ve nicked a tight game through an absolute will to go and win. Good play, good defending, energy and effort. Right up there in terms of our performances, if you put everything down in terms of the team is stretched, quick turnaround of games, key players not being available, some really tired bodies, some boys are not 100 percent fit. The quality of the opposition and the position of the club in the league. What the other team has got. I think that is right up there in terms of performance and result.”

Coming off the back of one of their best victories of the season, Wilder spared a thought for his fellow Sheffield United fans watching across the world as their team aim to complete a fairytale season in style.

“We’re just enjoying it and hopefully our supporters are enjoying. I’m in a privileged position, being a Sheffield United supporter as well as the manager,” Wilder said. “If I was sat in my favorite pub tonight watching that as a Sheffield United fan, I would have really enjoyed that. Hopefully they have done.”

Wilder kept repeating that Sheffield United have no right to be fighting for European qualification and should be in the relegation battle instead. One reporter asked him why he thought they were surpassing all expectations?

With his dry Yorkshire whit, this was Wilder’s brilliant response.

“I don’t know. I am scratching my head! Here’s one for you: try and keep the ball out of one goal and try and go put it in the other. That middle bit, don’t worry about it too much,” Wilder laughed.

Sheffield United – Tottenham stream: How to watch, start time, odds

Sheffield United - Tottenham strean
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Sheffield United – Tottenham Hotspur stream: There are European hopes dripping from Wednesday’s meeting of Sheffield United and Tottenham Hotspur at Bramall Lane (Watch live at 1pm ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com)

Blades’ European hopes have taken a big hit since the Premier League’s return from the coronavirus pandemic. They’ve lost two-straight league outings and have just one win from five.

SHEFFIELD UNITED – TOTTENHAM FULL MATCH REPLAY

Spurs have taken four of six points in just two matches since the end of the break and need a win to retake seventh place from Arsenal.

Team news

Japhet Tanganga and Juan Foyth remain out for Tottenham, who is otherwise as healthy as its been since the calendar turned to 2020. Jose Mourinho has made one change as Dele Alli is dropped and Steven Bergwijn comes in.

Jack O’Connell is getting closer to a return for the Blades but Chris Wilder says they “won’t make a high risk decision on him.” John Lundstram is out injured and is replaced by Sande Berge, while John Fleck is also out injured with Ben Osborn coming in for his first Premier League start.

 

What they’re saying

Chris Wilder on the evolution of big January buy Sander Berge: “Sander is going to be a really good player for us. He’s 21 [sic], we paid decent money for him. £20m is not an unbelievable number. It is for Sheffield United, I understand that. So Sander comes with that pressure. But he’s a grounded boy and he’ll eventually play as a sitting midfield player. He’s a proper midfield player, he’s a really good kid and he always will get mine and the boys’ full backing.”

Mourinho on the struggles of big signing Tanguy Ndombele“Football is full of players who have made difficult starts and then ended well. When Luka Modric arrived at Real Madrid after six months he was labeled the worst signing in their history by the fans and the press. A few months later he was a champion, then a few months later he was European champion and then a few months later he was voted the best player in the world. So when the talent is there many things can happen with adaptation and if the talent is there anything good can happen.”

Odds and ends

The bookies aren’t so sure about this one, with DraftKings having hosts Sheffield United +225 and Tottenham +130.

Heung-min Son and George Baldock traded goals in a 1-1 November draw in North London.

Sheffield United – Tottenham Prediction

Spurs have the benefit of rest and potency up top. It’ll be a grimy one — Chris Wilder deems it so — but Tottenham gets the points 2-1.

Aston Villa v. Sheffield United live stream

Watch Live Aston Villa v Sheffield United
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Here are the details for the Aston Villa – Sheffield United stream and TV channel.

Aston Villa v. Sheffield United kicks things off (Start time is 1pm ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) below you will find details on how to watch the Aston Villa v. Sheffield United stream.

Villa’s match-in-hand kicks off with the club holding 25 points, two less than a trio of teams vying to hold their place in the Premier League.

[ MORE: Premier League fixtures remaining ]

The first Premier League match after the coronavirus suspension also holds big message-sending implications for the visiting Blades, who can pull into fifth with a win.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE


TEAM NEWS

Aston Villa gets playmaker John McGinn back. The Scottish Football Writers’ Association Player of the Year hasn’t played since just before Christmas thanks to an ankle injury. Nyland starts in goal, while youngster Keinan Davis start up top.

Sheffield United are without Jack O’Connell and John Fleck due to injury, while record-signing Sande Berge comes back into the team.


What they’re saying

Dean Smith on the return of McGinn: “John McGinn has been a big boost for us on the training ground. He’s back and played against West Brom and Leicester. It’s big to have John back. The rest of the lads have done conditioning work and we’ve had a few niggles, but nothing to concern us.”

Chris Wilder on Blades’ incredible season: “I liken it to a Ford Fiesta in the Le Mans 24-hour race in supercars. Listen, we’re competitors. We’ve enjoyed it and I do 100 percent believe the performances we’ve got have been fully deserved. We’re going to have to do a lot just to maintain our position now.”


Prediction

Expect this one to be cagey, requiring something special to break into the win column. Jack Grealish has the wondrous in his locker, but he’ll have to earn his chance against a team who doesn’t allow much and a keeper who’s kept the second-most clean sheets in the PL this season.

Blades have found a number of goals from its marauding defenders and/or their service this season, but it was Scottish midfielder John Fleck who bagged a brace in a 2-0 defeat of Villa at Bramall Lane in December.

That loss came in one of three 3-plus losing streaks for Villa this year, the most recent an active four-match run. Smith’s men will find a way to get their point here, moving one back of safety after a scoring draw.

Sheffield United season restart preview

Sheffield United season restart preview
Photo by Bradley Collyer/PA Images via Getty Images)
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With the 2019-20 Premier League season soon to restart, let’s focus on all 20 clubs and see where they stand ahead of the final nine matches of the season.

Sheffield United is next.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

Let’s take a closer look at all things Blades when it comes to the season restart.


Outlook: Sheffield United has welcomed itself to the Premier League and put its feet up on the big boys’ tables while asking what’s for dinner. Blades sit seventh and will hope to continue a fairytale which has them on the precipice of the Europa League. Their fixture list in monstrous, especially at Bramall Lane, but Wilder’s proven capable of outwitting even the smartest of bosses for long periods of time. A name to remember is Simon Moore. The backup keeper and starter from Blades’ League One days could become vital should Manchester United defy expectation and pull Dean Henderson home from his loan upon its June 30 expiry.

[ MORE: Ranking every Southampton player in 2019-20 ]


Tactical analysis: Chris Wilder has flummoxed many a Premier League manager with his creative use of defenders in attack. United typically uses Jack O’Connell, John Egan and Chris Basham as a back-3 with Enda Stevens and George Baldock as the two wingbacks. Those players have accounted for six of United’s 18 PL assists this season. For more on the tactics, Wilder laid things out in entertaining fashion for Arlo White late last month.


Possible XI (3-5-2) 

—– Henderson* —–

— Basham — O’Connell — Egan —

— Baldock — Fleck —  Berge —– Norwood — Stevens—

—– McBurnie —– Mousset —–

The challenge here is fitting January signing Berge into the mix, as fellow central midfielders John Fleck, Oliver Norwood, and John Lundstram have been instrumental in this amazing season. Lundstram seems the most likely to cede his spot if someone will, which really says something about Berge’s immense talent. David McGoldrick and Billy Sharp have provided a lot up top, so McBurnie and Mousset will see plenty of time on the bench. And the biggest question of all is Henderson, who’s on loan from top seven rival Manchester United.

[ MORE: The 2 Robbies assess Sheffield United’s chances ]


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Remaining schedule
Home: Spurs, Wolves, Chelsea, Everton
Away: Newcastle, Manchester United, Burnley, Leicester City, Southampton

Predicted finish: The Blades will get the chance to defend their home turf from not one, not two, not three, but four would-be European rivals (It’s a little generous to include Everton, but the talent is there). Throw in Leicester and Manchesteer United away, and there is a huge bridge to cross for Wilder’s men to keep their incredible season on the path toward unprecedented heights. It’s not just about keeping Spurs and Arsenal in the rear view mirror, as Blades meet the next four teams above their seventh-place footing.

Sheffield United boss Wilder readies for European fight (video)

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Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder has overseen one of the more incredible debut seasons for a promoted club in Premier League history.

His Blades are currently in a Europa League position and two points back of what will likely be a Champions League position if Man City’s European ban is upheld next month. They will also host Arsenal in an FA Cup quarterfinal if the tournament resumes this summer.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Wilder has been planning for the Blades return over the coronavirus pandemic, and admitted to NBC’s Arlo White that there are some odd moments when he considers their position on the Premier League table.

“There has been a time when the league table flashes up and you go, ‘What’s happened there? What’s that team doing right the way up there above some big hitters?’ But really what it does teach you in the game of football is that you have to live in the moment. We’ve enjoyed this season. We fully deserve our position. We believe (in) the points that we’ve gained and the points that we’ve produced. We want to carry on where we’ve left off.”

“I liken it to a Ford Fiesta in the Le Mans 24-hour race in super cars. Listen, we’re competitors. We’ve enjoyed it and I do 100 % percent believe deserve the performances we’ve got have been fully deserved. We’re going to have to do a lot just to maintain our position now.”

Blades remaining fixtures are far from easy, with Spurs, Manchester United, Wolves, Leicester City, and Chelsea still to come. They’ll have their say on the UCL and UEL and, almost regardless of how it goes, will have made a wildly strong impression on the PL.