SHEFFIELD UNITED manager Chris Wilder insists Saturday’s eagerly-anticipated derby showdown with Leeds United will not be “season-defining” in the race for automatic promotion.
The Blades head to Elland Road on Saturday lunchtime sitting third in the Championship table, two points behind Marcelo Bielsa’s side in second place with nine games remaining.
We are up against arguably the best team in the division for the past eight months. Whether that can continue for another month is to be seen.Sheffield United boss, Chris Wilder
Norwich City sit a further two points ahead at the summit, prompting some to bill the Yorkshire derby clash as pivotal in deciding which of the two combatants can go up without need for the play-offs.
But Wilder today told The Yorkshire Post: “It isn’t season-defining. That would be a lack of respect for the teams we still have to play.
“It (winning) would give us a boost and allow us to claw back the deficit. But Leeds will be looking to strengthen their hold.”
Leeds won the meeting between these two old White Rose foes at Bramall Lane in December, Pablo Hernandez capitalising on a blunder by goalkeeper Dean Henderson.
There was little between the two teams on the day and a goalless draw would probably have been a fair result.
Nevertheless, Wilder is full of praise for not only Leeds but also Bielsa ahead of the return this weekend.
“We are up against arguably the best team in the division for the past eight months,” added the Blades chief. “Whether that can continue for another month is to be seen.
“If you look at his CV, it is not too shabby. He has worked at national level and for some of the most powerful clubs in Europe and abroad.
“Bielsa has sprinkled his magic dust on that club through being an outstanding manager.
“Leeds have gone all out financially to get him to turn their club around. A club that is historically a huge club with a fabulous tradition.
“Possibly one that should not be in the Championship. But they are. That shows how tough English football is at times, when you find the likes of Leeds United in the Championship, plus Sheffield United and Portsmouth in League One at one time.”
Saturday’s clash has evoked memories of the 1990 meeting between the two Uniteds on Easter Monday that was won 4-0 by Leeds.
Wilder was part of Dave Bassett’s squad on a day that seemed to inflict fatal damage to the Blades’ hopes of being promoted to the top flight.
Come the end of the season, however, both Yorkshire clubs went up, as Newcastle United finished third.
“There are shades of 1990 about this game,” admitted Wilder. “I spoke to ‘Harry’ (Bassett) last night. He reminded me we got thumped 4-0 but, ultimately, got the right outcome in terms of getting out of the division.”
Asked about the rivalry between Leeds and not only the Blades but also Steel City neighbours Wednesday, Wilder added: “It goes back a long way. When teams are doing well, there is quite a lot of jealousy involved.
“That is going back to the 60s and 70s. They weren’t just Kings of Yorkshire but top dogs in the country. And into Europe as well.
“There is a rivalry between the two biggest cities in the county.”