The Blades yesterday rounded off a season to savour by twice coming from behind to earn a point at Stoke City.
Norwich City’s victory at Aston Villa meant the title was never on the cards for United, regardless of how the trip to the Potteries panned out.
But promotion to the top flight – and a guaranteed cash windfall of around £170m – is a fine consolation for a club who were in League One just two years ago.
Just who will be at the helm when the new season kicks off in August remains to be seen. Kevin McCabe and Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abuldaziz Al Saud are due in the High Court tomorrow in the latest instalment of a bitter legal wrangle between the joint owners.
The pair, who each control 50 per cent stakes in United’s parent company Blades Leisure Limited, launched rival bids for sole control midway through last season.
This tension at the top of the club was part of the reason why Wilder went public with his concerns over the future direction of the Blades a year ago.
The lifelong fan had been willing to walk away from his dream job if certain guarantees were not made by the owners.
Speaking after goals from Kieran Dowell and Enda Stevens had earned a 2-2 draw against Stoke, Wilder said: “Great credit to the owners for putting their differences aside and thinking, first and foremost, about the football club.
“This time last season, when I walked off the pitch at Bristol City (on the final day), I was in tears because I thought that was me done here.
“Obviously there were things that were not right. We talked about what needed to happen. They moved the budget forward and we needed to.
“I would like to thank Prince Abdullah and Kevin McCabe for looking at the bigger picture and thinking about the progression of the club.
“To turn it around so quickly is remarkable.”
By a strange quirk of fate, the legal row returns to the High Court on the same day as Wilder and his players will take an open-top bus promotion parade around the Steel City.
Thousands of Blades fans are expected to turn out to celebrate the return to the top flight after 12 years away.
For the red-and-white half of the Steel City it will be the latest in a series of parties since automatic promotion was clinched on the penultimate weekend of the season.
“It is not easy celebrating like we do,” said Wilder, who joked recently that his favourite tipple was now Italian lager Moretti following promotion to the Premier League. “It is a tough gig. It was two years ago, when we gave it a good go for about six weeks.
“This will be a bit shorter, but so far has been more condensed and more intense. There are still a couple more celebrations to do and why not?
“They fully deserve it. We all do. I feel we have been a breath of fresh air in how we have gone about our business in the division this year.
“We have left a lot of powerful football clubs in our wake this season.
“Not having a go at other clubs and how they do it, but we have worked hard on the training ground. Recruitment has been key, which it always is. Plus the togetherness we have shown and the way we have played in attacking the division.
“I truly believe we deserved our success.”
As proud as Wilder is about this season’s success, he admits to not being happy at half-time against Stoke.
“We had words,” he said. “A few things did not go for us, including a great save from Ryan (Shawcross) on the line. But I was still not happy. The second half, though, was much more like it.”
Report: Page 3