That was the assessment of manager Chris Wilder as his Blades side defeated Aston Villa at Bramall Lane, despite playing over 30 minutes with 10 men.
David McGoldrick’s first-half goal was enough for United to claim their fourth win of the season and move onto 14 points, meaning they will not be sharing Derby County’s unwanted record of fewest points in a top-flight campaign.
The hosts were largely containing the threat of Villa until Phil Jagielka was sent off for a professional foul on Anwar El Ghazi after a VAR check with an hour gone. However, they displayed magnificent determination in defence and it would have taken something special for the away side to break through.
“Last year we took those big moments quite consistently and we took one tonight,” reflected Wilder.
“We showed a great desire to keep the ball out of the back of the net. We didn’t really make any individual errors, which has cost us so many points all season.
“Doing what we did tonight allows you to get those types of results that we had consistently last season.”
Wilder wasn’t drawn on whether the referee made the right decision as he upgraded Jagielka’s yellow card to a red.
Kean Bryan looked like he had the space covered as El Ghazi was hauled down but the Blades chief felt his side were going to be reduced to 10 men as soon as the VAR check appeared on the screen.
He continued: “He was gone as soon as he went over.
“They are a brilliant club, Villa but they have had some decisions against us. They had one at the start of the season when John Egan was sent off.
“I don’t know where I am at with VAR. Like I talked about with Jayden Bogle, he is lucky that his season wasn’t finished and people talk about the challenge on him not being reckless while other things are. I think I have maybe gone past caring. I even thought Didzy [McGoldrick] was offside when he scored.
“That’s how it gets you when you have had some of the decisions we have had.”
Jagielka’s dismissal means he will be out of Saturday’s game with Southampton.
Wilder was already short of numbers in the heart of defence with Chris Basham, John Egan, Jack O’Connell, Jack Rodwell and Jack Robinson all missing the Wednesday evening contest through injury.
Along with missing so many defenders, the Blades were also without Jayden Bogle and Sander Berge again while Matty Cash and Jack Grealish remained absent for Villa. The visitors had the first big chance of the evening as the ball was played into the Sheffield United area but John McGinn snatched at the shot from six yards as Aaron Ramsdale rushed out to put pressure on the midfielder.
The visitors then had strong appeals for a penalty waved away as Ollie Watkins burst into the penalty area and was challenged by two Blades defenders.
The Villa striker and a few of his team-mates called for a foul but nothing was forthcoming from the referee.
McGoldrick got United’s noses in front on the half hour. It was the striker’s first league goal against a side outside of the ‘big six’, with all seven of his previous top-flight goals for the Blades coming against Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham.
Some remarkable footwork from Bertrand Traore almost hauled the visitors level as he skipped past three defenders to work space for a shot but he put his effort just wide of the post from the centre of the penalty area.
The Blades saw out the rest of the half out before a committed piece of defending from Jagielka two minutes into the second half made sure they stayed in front.
Traore had a sight of goal after McGinn’s flick-on but Jagielka threw his body in front of the ball to divert the danger.
The Blades were reduced to 10 men on 57 minutes but clung on to keep Villa out. Villa pressed for an equaliser as Sheffield retreated deeper but Ramsdale was constantly alert to smother the danger, producing a fine save down to his left in stoppage time.
Wilder added: “It was about everybody helping out.
“I have got to be critical, we have not took big moments enough this year and we have not kept the ball out of the back of the net as much as we should have done.”
Sheffield United: Ramsdale; Ampadu, Jagielka, Bryan; Baldock, Lundstram, Norwood, Fleck, Stevens; Brewster (Burke 60 (McBurnie 89)), McGoldrick (Osborn 73). Unused substitutes: Foderingham, Sharp, Mousset, Lowe, Osborn, Ndiaye, Maguire.
Aston Villa: Martinez; Elmohamady, Konsa, Mings, Targett; Nakamba (Sanson 68), McGinn, Traore (Davis 81); Ramsey (Barkley 68), El Ghazi, Watkins. Unused substitutes: Heaton, Taylor, Luiz, Engels, Kesler-Hayden.
Referee: R Jones (Merseyside).
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