Chris Wilder has called for some perspective following Sheffield United’s return to Premier League action.
The Blades have been a revelation this season, with many tipping them for an immediate return to the Sky Bet Championship following promotion but the club’s first top-flight campaign for 12 years has been a resounding success so far.
Prior to football’s postponement due to the coronavirus pandemic, Wilder’s team were seventh in the table and mounting a serious challenge for the European places.
A goalless draw at Aston Villa and a 3-0 defeat at Newcastle since the resumption has quelled some of the optimism among supporters but the Blades remain in seventh spot heading into the midweek round of fixtures, which see them travel to Manchester United.
“Fighting amongst fans is their fight,” said Wilder. “Some people will think it’s a disgrace at Newcastle and we should be beating them 5-0 comfortably – where that comes from I don’t know. Whereas some fans will look at it and go these things happen in football.
“We have the ability to have the best team in Sheffield United’s history but we could also end up being a joke and end up back in Division Four, there’s no in-between is there?
“But I think that happens at the majority of clubs when a result goes against you. It’s crisis time and needs a wrecking ball taking to it, but produce a good performance and we’re going to win the Champions League. There’s no perspective at times, no middle ground.”
The second-half performance at St James’s Park on Sunday, when his team conceded three times following John Egan’s red card, disappointed Wilder.
He expects a response from his players against Manchester United, while acknowledging the gulf that exists between the two clubs.
“Performance-wise at Villa, I can accept that from the first game out. I wouldn’t say it was poor. But I agree the second half at Newcastle wasn’t up to scratch,” said the Blades boss.
“The players have set the standards for themselves with their performances this season, and over the last couple of years that we’ve been together, and I’m not going to chuck them under the bus, but they’ve got to up their performances.
“I’m expecting a step up in quite a lot of aspects of the game. They have created that pressure with their standards, there would be no pressure if they were mid-table.
“I could sit down with you for an hour and you’d shake your head at what we’re up against and how powerful this division is, and it gets no easier on Wednesday night – Ford Fiesta against the Ferrari.
“But I’m hoping I can get a tune out of the Fiesta and the Ferrari gets a puncture or the engine blows up. I’m hoping I can rev up the Fiesta and get the choke out.
“Despite that, we think we can get a result – as we always have done this season. We need a spark from somewhere to get ourselves back up and running.”
Wilder will be without the suspended Egan and Dean Henderson at Old Trafford. Goalkeeper Henderson is on loan from Manchester United and ineligible to play against his parent club so Simon Moore is likely to deputise between the posts.
Phil Jagielka could replace Egan in defence if Jack O’Connell remains out with the impact injury that has ruled him out since the resumption.