Europa League dream over for Sheffield United but Chris Wilder accentuates the positives for his Blades

Sheffield United’s dream of a first European campaign is over after a 1-0 defeat at home to Everton last night was compounded by Wolverhampton Wanderers’ 2-0 victory against Crystal Palace.

Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford punches clear from David McGoldrick at Bramall Lane. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

The Blades cannot now finish in the top seven of the Premier League.

But as manager Chris Wilder pointed out, for a newly-promoted side to be even talking about the disappointment of just falling short in the final days of the season was incredible.

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They should never even have been competing with the teams they are because, as he said: “The football team’s ahead of the football club in a lot of ways and it’s important the football club try to catch up.

Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder looks on at Bramall Lane where his side lost to Everton last night. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

“We shouldn’t even be talking about a bridge too far, really.

“For us to be in this position in the 37th game of the season where it looks like what we were desperately trying to achieve and what we thought we could achieve has not been possible.

“On reflection, we’ve lost a game of football I think we deserved something from.

“We’re playing a big team in this division with a fabulous manager and you’re up against a lot of quality and there was nothing really in the game.

Sheffield United's Sander Berge holds off Tom Davies at Bramall Lane. Picture: Darren Staples/Sportimage

“But talking about the overall situation we find ourselves in, we’re cemented in the top ten in our first season back.

“I’m sure people understand I can’t be too critical of my players after what they’ve given me over this season.

“We’re one of the best promoted sides for quite a while.

“We’ve not yo-yoed between the divisions with parachute payments or been a huge club that’s gone out of the Premier League and come bouncing back.

Chris Basham puts a cross into the Everton penalty area at Bramall Lane. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

“The journey and what we’ve achieved is there for all to see and they can be very proud of their efforts this year.”

There was no lack of effort from the Blades, but it just looked like a game too far from them, and it was decided by a Richarlison header early in the second half, the first of only two efforts on target in the entire game.

But if Wilder had been critical of his team after Thursday’s defeat at Leicester City, he was much more forgiving this time around.

“We lacked the quality we needed,” he said. “We got into decent positions, especially in the second half.

“We tried to get ourselves back in the game and we’re disappointed with the manner of their goal, a cheap foul, they put a decent ball in and we should have done better with that. I was disappointed to go 1-0 down but I was pleased with the fight.

“There were a lot of tired bodies and a lot of tired minds but there was plenty of heart, drive and desire, not so much on the quality front.

“It (the restarted season) has been hugely challenging for everybody. Anybody who knows about the game would agree it’s not suited us in the way it’s suited a lot of teams with the momentum we had and the backing of the crowd home and away, but even then coming back at the early part of restart we struggled to get going then had some fabulous victories and results.

“We’ve not fallen off the side of the mountain (since the resumption of the season). To beat Tottenham, Chelsea, Wolves, to draw at Burnley has been a decent effort.

“The result at Leicester we can’t really put our finger on it, tonight we just lacked a bit of energy and it maybe affected our quality in the final third at crucial moments.

“In my opinion I still thing there was enough for us to get a result but it wasn’t to be.”

Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti has been frustrated with the efforts of his players in some recent matches, bit had no such complaints last night, saying proudly: “You can win only here if you are focused and motivated.”

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