Under-pressure Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom faces renewed speculation over his future after club-record loss to Newcastle United
Without a win since their return to the top-flight, United suffered on an occasion which saw the visitors become the first Premier League side to have eight different scorers in a game.
Heckingbottom’s side have registered just one point from six matches thus far in 2023-24 and slumped to the bottom of the table following a painful result and performance against the Magpies.
After United’s recent loss at Tottenham, some reports in the national media suggested that Chris Wilder could be set for a return to Bramall Lane to replace the current Blades chief.
They were given short shrift by Heckingbottom in his pre-match press conference ahead of Sunday's game. But rumours surrounding his future are likely to intensify after such a heavy defeat, although the club are understood to have no immediate plans to replace the 46-year-old.
Questioned on his position, the former Leeds United and Barnsley chief said: “I can’t answer any of that. If it is anything to do with my future, you are asking the wrong person.
“My job is to manage the football department, from top to bottom, that’s it. Questions on that, no problem. When there’s questions about me, you have probably got to take it up with someone else.
“We have no problems here. Stories are always stories, you can get used to it. The amount of the questions I get asked about anything, I don’t know if they are (all) true or not.
“There might be questions about signings, changes, things behind the scenes. It’s part and parcel of being in this job. Some of them, I know nothing about (answers).”
When asked whether he will be the manager for the next game, he said: “Yes, 100 per cent.”
The tone was set in a 15-minute period in the first half when United conceded three times to effectively end the game as a contest with Sean Longstaff, Dan Burn and Sven Botman netting for the Tynesiders.
Worst was to come in a grim second half when United's team shape, discipline, concentration and decision-making went to pieces with the margin of victory by no means flattering Newcastle, who could easily have seen their goals total reach double figures were it not for the performance of home keeper Wes Foderingham.
Heckingbottom continued: “It was bad end to what has been a bad week for us. These results (defeats) are going to come, we expect them, but it is the nature of the performance that we are upset about. We were undone by our organisation.
“We can't afford to put ourselves behind in that sort of fashion if we want to compete. It is the second half I'm upset with, regardless of the errors that lead to goals.
“We need to make sure we learn from that. A lot of the things I saw in the second half, I've never seen here. There are certain things that aren't acceptable, which they know.
“These games are not going to define our season. It is about accumulating the points. While there are huge things we have to learn from, we also have to keep a calm head about this sort of game.”
It was an afternoon which started out with an emotional tribute to Maddy Cusack following her passing last week.
Home players wore 'Cusack 8' jerseys in a minutes' silence before kick-off, with members of Cusack's family joining United's women's captain Sophie Barker and Blades legend Tony Currie to lay a wreath in the centre circle.
Fans also applauded in the eighth minute – in recognition of Cusack's squad number – as a further mark of respect.
Heckingbottom continued: “The supporters were first class, you could hear them all the way through. It has been a tough week for everyone, we wanted to do our bit to change that, but we've failed.
“You can't feel sorry for yourself. We are ready to go on Monday. There are things we have to address from that performance, we can't shy away from it but the good thing is you always have another game.”
Without a point on their travels this season ahead of Sunday's game, Newcastle showed their ruthless side at Bramall Lane, with Magpies chief Eddie Howe admitting he was aware of potential records on a day when his side were within one goal of equalling the Premier League's record win.
Newcastle did record their biggest ever away league victory.
The result completed the toughest of weekends for both Sheffield clubs, who now prop up their respective divisions.
The future of Sheffield Wednesday head coach Xisco Munoz is also under the microscope following their 3-0 loss at Swansea.The Owls prop up the Championship table with just two points from eight games.
Lane report: Page 27