Oliver Norwood says Sheffield United will continue to attack opponents now they are starting to lose their unknown quantity.
With the Premier League table starting to take shape after more than a third of the season, the Blades sit seventh, a point behind Tottenham Hotspur, and ahead of Arsenal and Manchester United. “I’m enjoying watching them play more than anybody,” Match of the Day 2 pundit Jermaine Jens said after Sunday’s 1-1 draw at Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Midfielder Norwood insists he has no interest in how others view his team, but they will face new challenges in the coming months as opponents wise up to the threats they pose, and try to counteract them. The Red Devils switched formation to match up the Blades’s back three in the last game at Bramall Lane, for example.
“There’s no point turning up if you’re not going to try to win,” said Norwood when asked if he and his team-mates revelled in upsetting the odds.
“We’ve come to attack the league. We said in pre-season we’re not going to let teams dictate to us, we’re going to try to dictate to them.
“It’s a game of cat and mouse and at the end of Sunday’s game it was like a game of basketball, end to end with both teams trying to win it. We’re going to attack every team, that’s just the way we play.”
If people turn up and think it’s going to be easy, they’re in for a shock. It’s irrelevant to us, we know what we’re good at, we know our strengths and how we’re going to play. If teams don’t respect us – which I don’t think is the case – we’ll punish them.Sheffield United’s Oliver Norwood
It is how they have played since Chris Wilder became manager in 2016, but for some, those out of the top flight are out of mind.
Having won promotion from the Championship last season, Sheffield United started the campaign as the bookmakers’s favourites for relegation, but have already taken points off Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United, and beaten Arsenal.
Norwood does not think opponents will fall into the trap of treating his team lightly – but he will be very happy if they do.
“I couldn’t really care less what anybody says about us,” insisted the former Northern Ireland international. “It’s about us.
“If people turn up and think it’s going to be easy, they’re in for a shock.
“It’s irrelevant to us, we know what we’re good at, we know our strengths and how we’re going to play. If teams don’t respect us – which I don’t think is the case – we’ll punish them.”
At the same time as being positive, the Blades are not reckless. They are unbeaten away from home in all competitions since January, the only team in the English leagues who can say that. At Molineux they were solid defensively, allowing Wolves the bulk of possession, but carried the greater threat on the counter-attack.
“As long as this run carries on I’m happy,” said Norwood.
“We’re difficult to play against. We’re not going to come over and let teams beat us. We’ve got to continue it.
“Molineux is a difficult place to come so we can’t be too disappointed (with a draw). We move onto Thursday now.
“I didn’t realise it was just us and Liverpool unbeaten away (in the Premier League). It’s not a bad record but we need as many points as we can get so long may that continue. There’s no targets, we’ll just keep totting up the points and see where we end up.”
On Thursday the Blades entertain a Newcastle United side led by their former player-manager Steve Bruce, before travelling to Norwich City on Sunday.
Crucial to their recent good form has been David McGoldrick, despite the centre-forward still searching for his first club goal of the season. They are unbeaten in their previous seven games, and McGoldrick has started the last six.
Although he scored for the Republic of Ireland in September, McGoldrick has not netted for Sheffield United since Easter Monday, but he makes an important contribution to their play and Norwood says the Blades are a better team with him in it.
“The goal will come for him,” insisted Norwood. “It’s one of those things at the minute.
“But it’s not just the goals, it’s what he brings to the team. We’re a different team with him in it at the minute.
“We appreciate how good a footballer he is and it will come, no doubt about that. We’re fortunate to have a footballer of that class in our team.
“He’s definitely under-rated. We’re a better team with him in it than not, we proved that all last season and again this season.”
McGoldrick, who had a goal controversially ruled out for offside by the video assistant referee at Tottenham last month, forced two good saves from Rui Patricio in Sunday’s second half, and glanced a header wide from Norwood’s free-kick.
It was telling that Wilder, made a point of reassuring the centre-forward about his importance to the team despite his lack of goals.
“Didzy is disappointed not to have scored, of course he is,” said Wilder. “But I spoke to him in the dressing room for five minutes, away from everyone else afterwards, and told him how important he is to us. I wanted to make that point.
“The partnership between him and Lys (Mousset, his fellow centre-forward) is very important to us and we play better with David in the team.
“You could hear our fans chanting is name all the way through and that shows what they think of him as well.
“Everyone knows what a good player he is and, bigger picture, you’ve got to look at that.”