How far can Sheffield soar in the Premier League?

Chris Wilder’s men caused another shock last Sunday as his band of mainly British men continues to soar up the table.

The 3-3 draw with Manchester United leaves the Steel City side sixth in the league, above the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham.

Many had Sheffield United down as pre-season favourites for relegation but they are making a mockery of those theories with 13 games played of the current campaign.

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The Blades continue to upset the so called ‘big six’ having now held Spurs, Chelsea and United whilst taking all three points against the Gunners.

Wilder’s side seem to embrace their underdog status with pleasure. In Manchester United they came up against a club who spent more money in the summer than they have ever spent in their entire history and dominated them for 70 minutes.

No challenge and no opposition appear to intimidate the Yorkshire men and they are a side that embody their manager. Chris Wilder’s personality and managerial career is personified in his team’s character and style of play.

The 52-year-old former Sheffield United player and fans rise in the dugout is a throwback to yesteryear.

Wilder has worked his way up through the ranks, starting in non-league with Alfreton Town before moving to Halifax and then Oxford United.

He was managing in League Two as recently as the 2015/16 season with Northampton Town before he secured his dream job with boyhood club Sheffield at the end of that campaign.

It took Wilder just three seasons to return his beloved Blades to the Premier League after guiding them to two promotions in that time and ending their 12 year hiatus from the top-flight.

This journey is something of a rarity in the modern game but serves only to endear Wilder and his disciples to the footballing world further.

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Wilder has created a team containing only one player who isn’t British or Irish, the exception being Lys Mousset.

They’re a perfect combination of old fashioned meets modern, from the formation, to the style of play, the manager and the players.

The defenders head everything. The front two work tirelessly and are bullies but with a touch of class, whilst the midfield is steady, disciplined and keep things ticking over.

They integrate the hardworking, simple side of the game with Wilder’s innovative tactics to perfection.

“I think they are a great watch,” Graeme Souness told Sky Sports. “For 70 minutes I was really enjoying how they were playing. They go long when they have to.

” It was only when Mousett went off they didn’t stretch United back so much, allowing United to squeeze up, and that is when they came into the game.

“John Fleck said in his interview that they don’t have the quality of the other teams. I disagree with that because as well as going long at the right times, there were times when they were like Barcelona in tight areas.”

They are certainly earning a lot of plaudits of late and rightly so.

Just how long this good run can continue for is unknown but under Chris Wilder’s stewardship the Sheffield faithful will feel anything is possible.

A sign of a top manager is being able to affect the game from the touchline. Sheffield United have benefited from more goals (five) from substitutes in the Premier League this season than any other side, with Oli McBurnie entering the action from the bench on Sunday to grab a dramatic and deserved equaliser.

The real test will come after the Christmas period when teams have had chance to play Sheffield once already and they’re tactics and style of play aren’t quite so new and different.

Wilder and his men only face one top ten side in their next six games however, a factor they’ll be keen to capitalise on.

The only top half team they face in that period is Wolves, a club Chris Wilder and Sheffield United will perhaps be aiming to emulate after their seventh placed finish in their first season back in the big time took them to Europe.

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Unlike other sides that have excited after promotion, Sheffield’s success seems to possess the power of sustainability.

And unlike clubs such as Blackpool and Fulham who simply tried to outscore the opposition without worrying about the defensive side of the game, Sheffield United’s early season form has been built on solid foundations.

They sit only behind Leicester City in the clean sheets table, having kept the opposition at bay five times already this campaign.

Wilder has taken the Blades to dizzying new heights in such a short space of time epitomised by his post-match interview:

I would have been really disappointed had we not got anything from this game because for the majority of the time we were right up there in terms of the performance levels.

The fact Wilder would have been so distraught with a loss against the Red Devils in Sheffield’s maiden season says it all.

This wasn’t just another manager being biased towards his own side, these were the thoughts echoed by everyone who watched.

As ‘Chris Wilder, he’s one of our own!’ rung around the stadium in the closing stages it was clear the LMA manager of the year had created something special, and he isn’t finished yet.

The Author

George Cannon

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