Paul Heckingbottom's Sheffield United rallying cry: 'Are we going to roll over or are we going to fight?'

Bottom of the league, yet to win a match and with injuries piling up, 2023-24 is not looking particularly promising for Sheffield United.

But rather than dreading a Saturday evening visit from Manchester United, Blades manager Paul Heckingbottom insists his side should be looking forward to it. This is, after all, what they spent the last two seasons working for.

And it is only by fighting together that they can make the most of it, he argues.

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"We’ve fought so hard to be here, so we’ve got to enjoy it," said Heckingbottom, who saw Chris Basham, John Egan and Tom Davies all undergo surgery during the international break.

"The challenges, and everything that’s being thrown against us, we’ve got to enjoy it.

"Whether it’s the flukey goal against Fulham, the injuries, the drama late in games which seems to be going against us, so what?

"Are we going to accept it and roll over or are we going to fight?

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"It’s the same for the fans – enjoy what this season brings.

UP FOR THE FIGHT. Sheffield United manager Paul HeckingbottomUP FOR THE FIGHT. Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom
UP FOR THE FIGHT. Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom

"This is Sheffield United versus Manchester United at 8pm on a Saturday under the lights. Come and show how much support you have for the team because the only way out of this and to get results is by doing it together.

"So long as we give our best, that’s all we can ask.

"When we’re in here (the training ground), the atmosphere is good."

The Blades will not be the only United low on confidence and ravaged by injuries in a game which kicks off at 8pm for the benefit of Sky Sports viewers.

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They beat the Red Devils the last time they played them – in January 2021 – and although the visitors sneaked a 3-2 win when they last came to Bramall Lane, the home fans inspired an excellent if fruitless performance from a side who were winless then too.

Relentlessly demanding en route to promotion last season, Heckingbottom admits he has to be gentler with a side with one point from the first eight games.

"I maybe have to be a bit less severe on people than I would have been last year because of the league we’re in," he acknowledges.

"I have to be a bit more understanding, but that’s good for me.

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"Internally we’re good and externally I get it (the concern), but would it have been any different had one or two of those late moments gone for us? I bet everyone would have felt totally different.

"They’re the margins and that’s what we have to fight for."