Mo Besic is determined to take his chance at Sheffield United and having waited four months to make his first Premier League start for them, his second could come at Anfield on Thursday.
Besic has spent his last two years on loan from Everton, first at Middlesbrough for a season and a half, and now Bramall Lane.
Such has been the quality and reliability of the Blades’ midfield, the Bosnian had to wait until Sunday’s trip to Manchester City for his maiden league start. If John Lundstram’s ankle does not recover in time, he could have a second away game in a matter of days at one of the best teams in Europe.
If the lack of game-time is annoying Besic – he has only made four appearances from the bench – it is not showing.
“I’m enjoying my time here, it’s really good,” he insisted. “Of course you want to play more, but the team is the most important thing and I will wait for my chance. When the people in the team are playing so well you have to understand, train well and wait for chances to come.
“We’re looking forward to Liverpool. We just play our way, always our way and it never changes.
Of course you want to play more, but the team is the most important thing and I will wait for my chance. When the people in the team are playing so well you have to understand, train well and wait for chances to come.Sheffield United’s Mo Besic
“For me it doesn’t matter (that the game is against Liverpool), I just enjoy it. It’s a nice stadium, we’ll play against a good side but, hopefully, we can bring some points back.”
Lundstram, who started his career at Everton, will be keen to play in his home city but his desire to play as much as possible may have hindered his chances.
Until Sunday, the only matches he had missed this season were in the League Cup.
“He turned his ankle (on Boxing Day) and possibly made it a little bit worse than he would have done if he’d come off but he didn’t want to come off against Watford,” explained manager Chris Wilder. “We’ll just assess him and give him every opportunity (of facing Liverpool).
“But I thought Mo Besic in a little bit of an unfamiliar position did well and Callum (Robinson) and Lys (Mousset), my two other changes, did well. Out of possession I thought they were great and in possession they caused a threat to an outstanding team.”
In Lundstram’s absence, fellow midfielder John Fleck was outstanding without any luck. He was unfortunate the goal Mousset thought he had scored from his terrific pass was ruled out for a marginal offside, and that referee Chris Kavanagh ran into him in the second half, causing Fleck to give up the ball to Kevin De Bruyne, who created Manchester City’s first goal in a 2-0 win.
“Flecky’s a really good player, he showed that on Sunday but he showed it before as well,” said Besic, who will be at Bramall Lane for the rest of the season unless a club comes in during the January transfer window to buy him outright. “He plays the system really well and has done for years and we’re happy to have him – hopefully he can get even better.
“The rule says the referee needs to touch the ball (for play to be stopped) but it was difficult for the ref as well. It was just an unlucky situation.
“We’ll take positives from how we came back from that adversity, we stuck together and to our plan really well. It became a different game after the first goal but still they only had two (other) shots on target.”
Besic is by no means the only player finding it hard to break into Wilder’s Premier League XI. After 20 matches, Dean Henderson, Chris Basham, John Egan, Jack O’Connell, George Baldock, Lundstram, Oliver Norwood, Fleck and Enda Stevens have only missed six matches between them. That speaks volumes for the work done by the Blades’ fitness coaches.
“Every May we used to go to Magaluf and have drinking competitions and stuff like that,” said 52-year-old Wilder of his playing days.
“But there’s no hiding place in the Premier League, if you’re not up to it from a physical point of view then you get found out. Our boys are running around, covering distances and doing the high intensity sprints and all of the stuff we measure. Basically it comes down to them.
“The difference with the Championship is the intensity, the distances they cover, the high-speed runs. Whether it’s objective, in terms of the numbers, or just subjectively by looking at people, you can see the difference.
“Week in, week out, you see how quickly these boys cover the ground, how mobile and athletic they are as well as being talented and technically really good players. You’ve got to be a good player but you’ve also got to be a good athlete as well.
“Players don’t want to miss games but there has to be an honesty in that as well. I know they don’t want to come out of the side but if somebody has got something that might affect the team performance, it’s important they are honest about that. They know that, they wouldn’t take that risk.
“They all want to be part of it, they’re all hanging onto the shirt.
“I mentioned it to them recently how the standard, speed and ability in the sessions, where it’s been to where it is now is incredible. It is important we keep moving that on.”
It is also important that when the likes of Besic get a rare chance, they take it – even if it comes away to the world champions.