Chris Wilder had to make some difficult decisions to let players go in the January transfer window, but he is unhappy some made out he was looking to move Billy Sharp out of Sheffield United.
Although the Blades broke their club record transfer fee to sign £22m Sander Berge, the most expensive of five players to join in January, the dealing was not one-way traffic, with seven making way.
Despite constant speculation about his future, captain Sharp stayed, as did Luke Freeman, who was also linked with various moves.
Those to leave included defender Jake Wright, unbeaten in 29 appearances as the Blades won League One in 2017, and midfielder Mark Duffy, named in the division's team of the season. Centre-back Richard Stearman, an important member of last season's promotion-winning squad, also left.
“We've moved some people on, which happens,” said Wilder. “A couple of them have been great servants to the football club but it's about the future. I've been delighted with our transfer business – it's been structured with a lot of work into it, it's not a players gets mentioned and we'll go for him, we've watched and tracked these players for a long, long time.”
Stearman has joined Huddersfield Town on loan until the end of the season, while Duffy will spend the rest of the campaign with Alan Pardew's Den Haag. Wright, who spent the first half of 2019-20 at Bolton Wanderers was released.
Ravel Morrison (Middlesbrough), Kean Bryan (Bolton) and Callum Robinson (West Bromwich Albion) were also loaned out in January. Only Robinson could be said to have had any real impact on the first team yet, scoring once in 19 appearances since his summer move from Preston North End. Jake Bennett joined Alfreton on a free transfer.
Wilder was asked constantly during the window about Sharp, an important part of both promotion campaigns. His take was that while he would like to keep Sharp, the now-34-year-old had earned the right to decide his own destiny. He was angry when this was misinterpreted on Match of the Day as being “told he can go,” adding that after the game against Manchester City, “it looked like he was saying goodbye” – particularly as he had by then made it clear Sharp wanted to stay.
The Sheffield-born centre-forward has started the last three matches, having only kicked off two others in the rest of the season.
“I was disappointed with a situation when people were talking about me allowing Billy to go out,” said Wilder. “Their ‘facts’ weren’t right.
“I said if Billy knocked on my door and said he wanted to play elsewhere then I’d do what I could to facilitate that. He hadn’t. So that was the end of the story.”
Sharp has scored 103 goals in 259 appearances in all competitions across three spells for the Blades, including their first back in the Premier League this season.
Freeman, an unused substitute at Crystal Palace on Saturday, was also linked with a move.
“There’s always wheeling and dealing that goes on,” said Wilder. “We’ve always been active in that.
“But they were part of the group, they are part of the group. And as far as I’m concerned, that was the end of the story.”