Razor sharp Blades Sheffield United and their long term project

In talking about Sheffield United’s rise in the Premier League we need to mention three key names, club owner, Abdullah bin Musad bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud Galaz, chairman Musa’ad bin Khalid bin Musa’ad bin Abdulrahman Al Saud and manager Chris Wilder.

It has been a building process that has been going on with the club since the early 2010s and as we start a new decade all of that hard work and investment is bearing its fruits.

This season Sheffield United have got promoted to the Premier League and many media pundits and ex-players who had been involved within the game for years were expecting United to struggle. They used the same old cliche that if the club finished 17th this season it would be seen as a success because it would be survival. But United have been better, much better than that.

Let’s firstly talk about Chris Wilder’s influence on the team. Wilder was recruited in 2016 and didn’t start so well at the club, but then they had a fantastic run there on in and got 100 points as they got promoted from League one. But despite Wilder being financially restricted in his early years with the club there were two things in his and the clubs favour.

The first was that Wilder had played over 100 games for the Blades and was a life long fan. Having a professional manager and one who is a fan in charge of your club is a huge plus. The second was signing forward Billy Sharp. Sharp is a long time United fan too and that just means that there is so much extra passion for the job you are doing, you are no longer playing for a club, in some ways this is what your life is all boiling down too.

Sharp in his 2nd stint with the club has not let his manager down either. He has scored 89 goals from 180 games, scoring 23 in the Championship last season. Whilst the striker has struggled somewhat to adjust to the Premier League as he only has 2 league goals so far he has also had niggling injuries and played just over half of his clubs games.

But with the right owners and Wilder in charge the club just have a fantastic winning mentality. Media pundits have called the team a boa constrictor. In that they let the opposition have the ball early on and then take a grip of the game and do not let up, and let’s face it they have been very impressive this season. So impressive that there is talk they could finish 4th and claim the final Champions League place for next season, imagine that?

For now they are in 5th place and have won their last two games in a row. They would need to find a little more consistency of course as they have still lost 7 games this season.

Wilder, who has got the team promoted twice in three seasons was rewarded with a new 4 year extension contract and rightly so, just how far the Blades could go is only limited it seems by their dreams.

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Premier League: Game of the Weekend: Sheffield United 2-1 Bournemouth

There were only 3 games played at the weekend in the Premier League because of the winter break and a storm which was fierce enough to call off the Manchester City and West Ham match. The pick of them ended up being in Sheffield, where Sheffield United going for a European place were taking on Bournemouth who are flirting with the bottom three.

Sheffield United came out 2-1 winners in a lively game that became very nervous for the hosts given that they were the favourites to win. The home side also known as the Blades went back up to 5th place and are only 2 points behind 4th place Chelsea. The victory has given Chris Wilder’s team a belief that not only could they finish in a Europa League position which would be an incredible achievement but also that they could have a chance to stun everyone and qualify for the Champions League. Of course despite such a great win we have to remember that Chelsea and Tottenham do have a game in hand of the Blades.But still there is nothing wrong with dreaming.

As for the game it got off to the worst possible start for the home side when Callum Wilson scored his 7th goal of the season to open up the game after just 13 minutes. The first half looked like Bournemouth would go in in the lead, but Billy Sharp equalised for the home side during injury time and that was certainly a psychological changing point for Bournemouth.

The home side had enjoyed 59% possession in the first half and whilst Bournemouth had managed to score it was telling that their goal was their only shot on target in the first 45 minutes.

In the second half though a United take over of the game didn’t exactly happen and in fairness to Bournemouth it was a very equal second period. With six minutes remaining it seemed like the game was destined to end in a draw, but John Lundstram latched onto a Lys Mossett pass and was able to convert sending the home fans wild with jubilation. It was Lundstram’s 4th goal of the season and possibly his most important.

It’s been widely excepted this season that United under Wilder have a game plan which is to suffocate play and really chase down the balls, and even though the club sometimes start games slowly it has been impressive how they stamp their authority on matches. The Blades will now have an 11 day break and their next game will be at home again against Brighton who are in 15th position and surely they will be favourites to win that game also as they have Chelsea clearly in their sights, the Blues have a tough fixture against Manchester United.

As for Bournemouth they will play Burnley next and Eddie Howe’s team are in real trouble in 16th place and just 2 points above the bottom three. It’s all to play for.

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What a season for Chris Wilder’s Blades

I don’t think I was alone in thinking that Sheffield United would struggle in their first season back in the Premier League (PL). I believed The Blades were set to endure a very tough relegation battle, ultimately ending with the Steel City side dropping back to the Championship. How wrong I was.

Chris Wilder’s side has been the surprise package of the 2019/20 campaign to-date. Not even the most optimistic Blades fan would have dared to believe this team could be as high as sixth in the table at this stage.

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Chris Wilder’s admission that he will make 11 changes in Sheffield United’s FA Cup game makes no sense at all

You’d have to go back 95 years to the last time Sheffield United won a major trophy and that will certainly tick over to 96 this season. Whilst the Blades are not fore runners to win trophies the manager Chris Wilder has come out with a comment that seems to go against football, as he will rest all 11 regulars for their upcoming FA Cup match at the weekend.

To sympathise with Wilder one can look at the fact that his team have had to play Manchester City and then Liverpool. That is two of the toughest games in Europe right now and both games were away from home. They inevitably lost both but could hold their heads up high and did not get slaughtered and played some good football, even creating a few chances for themselves. But defeats are defeats and United have taken a knock back as a result.

At the same time Sheffield United have actually had a superb first half of the season for them. Newly promoted from the Championship they have flirted with the top six for a majority of their time and keep their form up and they should have no problems in finishing in the top half of the league.

But after he saw his side lose 2-0 at Anfield to the champions-elect Liverpool, the Blades manager had this to say: “I will be making 11 changes, I wasn’t going to and I apologise for changing my mind but we’ve just had two back-to-back defeats and looking at the lads tonight it occurred to me that the Manchester City game may have taken more out of us than I thought. I was a little bit drained after that performance, to be honest. We never laid a glove on Liverpool, we were well beaten technically and tactically and, but for our goalkeeper, we might have lost by four or five.”

The best finish, one would expect is that Sheffield United will try to slot into Europa League place in the Premier League. But this is a period when the going does indeed get tough and other teams namely Tottenham, Manchester United and Wolves are going to have to step up their game and United could well have a solid season but have nothing to show for it except survival and some decent results. Whilst there is nothing wrong with that why would you basically give up the FA Cup before you have even started?

Of course the Blades will start as the massive odds on favourites to beat non league AFC Fylde. But can one presume that their bench and some reserves will have the quality to win? Of course it makes sense for Wilder to make some changes, but 11, really? In United’s case playing a non league team and being at home could make sense to rest some players, but we are seeing it time and again from clubs even when they reach the latter stages of a cup competition, giving up that competition so they can finish 10th in the Premier League just seems to make very little sense.

Sure there is the financial aspect to placings in the league but so many clubs have gone generations without a trophy, surely a fan would be happy to give up a place or two if it meant a good cup run? United has a very decent team this season and in the cup anything can happen. Make these changes and that phrase could come back to haunt Wilder’s decision.

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Sheffield Utd 3-3 Man Utd: The points are shared out between both sides in a six-goal thriller

The main focus of gameweek 13 was the huge clash between Man City and Chelsea, two sides who are looking to catch up to the Liverpool, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United had a difficult trip and a crucial match away to Sheffield United. Chris Wilder’s men have been on fine form since being promoted to the Premier League and have prove themselves to the top teams, which cannot be said about the other new boys in Aston Villa and Norwich City, who are badly struggling.

Focusing on the game as a whole, the hosts without a doubt outplayed and dominated the visitors, in terms of chances created, shots completed and where most of the possession was played on the pitch. The Blades were magnificent and untouchable in the first half, importantly taken the lead through John Fleck whilst playing comfortably with the ball and with a really good level of tempo.

They managed to continue with that straight after the half-time break, in terms of winning the ball in the right areas and pressuring the opposition time and time again through their movement and intelligence. This is how they doubled their lead, as they were able to force Andreas Pereira to lose the ball in the central area with his team-mates high up the pitch, allowing John Fleck to find Lys Mousset on the quick counter attack, who perfectly placed his shot into the corner of the net.

Meanwhile for the Red Devils, they were all over the place for 70 minutes of the match, unconvincing defensively, completely anonymous in midfield and the front three were slouching around in the opponent’s half with nothing to feed from or work with. Even in the first half alone, they only completed one shot on goal, showing how they lacked the required desire and urgency.

However, after Solskjaer made a tweak to the system in the second half, the team were able to have more time and space on the ball whilst having the numbers to get into the final third of the pitch. From the 70th minute till the 80th minute, the attacking-minded and ruthless United side showed up, as United pulled out three well-worked goals from nowhere, with them coming from Brandon Williams, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood, three players that came from the academy.

With just a couple of minutes to go, the neutral supporters of the Premier League got what they wanted for a special Sunday evening, as the substitute, Oliver McBurnie, saw his shot to be too powerful for David De Gea and went into the back of the net, leaving the points to be shared out by both teams. In the end, Sheffield United sit comfortably and proudly in sixth-place, whilst Manchester United find themselves in ninth position, nine points away from the top four spots.

Here are the three valuable factors we learnt from United’s latest league fixture…

The Red Devils do not have the foundation for a top four finish

Majority of the Old Trafford faithful would have felt that the chances of finishing in the top four would have been very slim a month or so ago, and now they would be thinking to themselves if the side are capable of finishing in the top half of the table. This is what happens when a squad is lacking the required depth and quality, something that the board and Ed Woodward have failed to repair.

Because of this unfortunate situation, the side have been forced to rely on the youngsters time and time again whilst there are not that many experienced players within the midfield and forward department to look up to. With there being no project and system put into place on and off the pitch, United are forced to work on individual quality and counter-attacking football, leaving them with a huge amount of uncertainty on if they can win games consistency and be successful at all.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is starting to show that the job is too big for him

If we are being brutally honest, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would have been sacked by now if he wasn’t a former Manchester United player that is seen as likeable person by the club and its loyal supporters. For sure, he understands the club’s style of play and the history of the football club, but he hasn’t shown the intelligence and the tactical flexibility that he is made to manage one of the biggest clubs in the world, on top of the fact that he failed to be successful at Cardiff City and Molde previously.

With the likes of Marcelino, Mauricio Pochettino and Max Allegri available and seeking for a new club, the pressure is definitely on Solskjaer to start picking up the much needed performances or results, as the board and Ed Woodward will not be able to bare another season without Champions League football. If things do not end well with this campaign, it may be ideal for the 46-year-old Norwegian to step down from the job, in order to save his reputation as a legend of the club.

Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United continue to outdo everyone’s expectations

Sheffield United are proving to be one of the best surprises of the Premier League so far this season, as they have been able to show their quality on both sides of the pitch whilst playing in a unique system under manager Chris Wilder that involves the use of overlapping centre-backs. Within this style of play, the team are able to attack effectively and are in full control on and off the ball.

The Blades have been really successful against the big boys, having beaten Arsenal at home whilst taking one point each from the likes of Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and now Manchester United, with their only defeat being an unfortunate one against Liverpool. If both Chris Wilder and Sheffield United are able to keep this up, it wouldn’t be a total shock to see them finishing in the top half of the table, something they would have never dreamt of at the start of the Premier League campaign.

The rise of Sheffield United in the Premier League has been impressive

At the beginning of the season it wouldn’t have been a surprise to have seen Sheffield United who had just been newly promoted to the Premier League from the Championship to be amongst the favourites to be relegated. But the Blades have started the season well and are proving critics, fans and pundits wrong.

Currently the club are in 6th place, if they finished in that position expect them to react like they have won the league and that would be richly deserved not mentioning it would be good enough to claim a place in the Europa League. So just how have Sheffield United been able to prove the doubters wrong this season?

The bulk of the side remain the same from the Championship and that was the call to arms from manager Chris Wilder who didn’t want to give the club a huge face lift just because they had been promoted to the Premier League. He has recognised that the players that got them here needed to stay as merit and has only tweaked the club slightly. For example in has come John Fleck from Coventry, Ollie Norwood for just £2m from Fulham, John Lundstram, who cost £700,000 from Oxford, and David McGoldrick, the latter also being a free. Paul Mitchell has come in for the backroom staff and gelled well within the set-up too.

Training has excelled under Wilder too where he has picked out one day in specific to run his players around. What the end result is better fitness and that seems to have showed later on in tough and physical games.

All of this hard work and careful recruitment is paying dividends and the clubs recent form has been superb. They have gone their last 4 matches without defeat, the last one coming against Liverpool at the end of September and even that match only ended 1-0 with a lot of pundits pointing out that United were always in the game and that could have ended in a draw.

The recent win over Arsenal by 1-0 just underlines how hard this team have focused to keep clean sheets. They have conceded just once in their last four games and last weekend they overwhelmed  Burnley winning 3-0. And that is the point right there, they are upsetting teams you would expect them to drop points against and for now are beating teams that they should be. Next weekend they will play under fire Tottenham and that should be a fascinating game. How longer can the club keep their good form up? Right now they are looking at 60 points for the season which would be a fantastic achievement.

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