Away itinerary is no excuse for slow start says Sheffield United manager

SHEFFIELD UNITED manager Chris Wilder insists that a testing run of three successive Premier League away games is not a factor in their low-key form following football's return after its Covid-19 hiatus.
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder. PICTURE: SPORTIMAGE.Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder. PICTURE: SPORTIMAGE.
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder. PICTURE: SPORTIMAGE.

The Blades are preparing for their third straight road trip in the space of a week at Manchester United on Wednesday evening - following earlier appointments at Newcastle United and Aston Villa.

Wilder's side were not at their flowing best in their 0-0 draw at Villa Park last Wednesday, but were still denied victory by a major technology failure when home keeper Orjan Nyland fell behind his goalline clutching Oliver Norwood's free-kick, with referee Michael Oliver not receiving a signal to indicate a perfectly-legitimate goal.

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Wilder's disappointment at St James' Park on Sunday was all to do with his side's uncharacteristically tepid second-half performance en route to a 3-0 loss to Steve Bruce's Magpies, who helped themselves to three unanswered goals when the visitors were down to ten men following the 50th-minute dismissal of John Egan.

It was far from ideal preparation for Wednesday's trip to Old Trafford, but Wilder is not using his side's itinerary as an excuse.

Wilder, whose side welcome Arsenal in an FA Cup quarter-final at Bramall Lane on Sunday, said: "I am looking forward to getting back to Bramall Lane, but it has not affected us (three away games).]

"There are plusses and minuses of being without a crowd. It wouldn’t have been any easier if we were 3-0 down in front of 50,000 passionate Geordies, it can work both ways.

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"There's no excuses in terms of schedules and amount of games, we have to look at ourselves.

"We’ve had four halves of football. Three have been understandably bitty with good and bad parts and in the other half, we were down to 10 men and made uncharacteristic mistakes and ended up getting beat 3-0.

"It was not enjoyable, but we’re not 10 points adrift. It doesn’t make it more acceptable, it still hurts and stings and we have to get quickly over that."

Wilder's side face a Manchester United line-up who produced a strong performance in their draw at Tottenham Hotspur on Friday night and the Blades chief is under no illusions about the extent of the task that awaits the visitors.

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He said: "All I know is that they had a behind-closed doors game about 10 days ago and about three or four players that didn’t get in the 22 would get in majority of Premier League clubs.

"I had the pleasure of meeting Sir Alex (Ferguson) a few times as a young manager and followed them closely and it’s an amazing football club.

"They’ve got great players and a great academy, excellent manager and staff and this is as tough as it gets.

"They have a couple of players back from injury that wouldn’t have played against us (originally), so they’re at their strongest in terms of personnel and quite rightly they’re pushing for top four and even higher and who wouldn’t bet against them."