Verdict – Sheffield United 4 Aston Villa 1: Humble approach is paying dividends for Blades

Get in: Oliver Norwood celebrates his goal with Chris Basham. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
Get in: Oliver Norwood celebrates his goal with Chris Basham. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
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URIAH HEAP made many references to his own ‘umbleness’ in Charle Dickens’s novel David Copperfield.

But there was none of that character’s insincerity in Chris Wilder’s comments amid the euphoria of a stunning performance by his Sheffield United side at Bramall Lane.

To some extent, Wilder’s day was marred by the stadium announcer’s wry comment of there being ‘only’ two minutes of stoppage time to play at the end of the first half with the Blades 3-0 ahead.

“I’ll deal with that, don’t worry about that. We are a humble club and I’m a humble manager,” was an upset Wilder’s reaction.

“I have already sorted that out so it won’t happen again. I apologise on behalf of Sheffield United to Steve (Bruce) and his players because it is not acceptable.

“We move on. It was a bit of over-enthusiasm. We have to realise we have a hell of a long way to come. It is our second season in this division and we have had one really good result but that is all it is.

“We have said there are a couple of clubs in the Championship that talk the talk and sometimes don’t walk the walk and I just want us to be humble and work hard and have the attitude that has been in the club for the last 24 months to carry on. There is no way that I will allow that to get out of hand.”

There is also no way the ‘Billy big boots’ syndrome another former Blades manager, Dave Bassett, was so fond of mentioning will be allowed to creep in under Wilder. The work ethic he has instilled was personified by the 10-minute cameo of striker Conor Washington, signed on a one-year deal after his release by QPR on Friday.

Washington, Middlesbrough winger Marvin Johnson and utility defender Martin Cranie were the trio brought in on loan window deadline day and Wilder claimed: “It has been a fantastic window. Pound for pound when you look at what other people have done we are right up there.

“This is the hardest window to work in but we have come out of it in good nick and need to kick on.”

While upset counterpart Bruce bemoaned the fact that he will have 10 players away on international duty and not have the opportunity to right the wrongs of Bramall Lane, Wilder enthused: “It is fantastic for our club to have players going away on international duty. We are gradually moving forward.

“We have to carry this forward and we go into the international break in a good position. There is no way that we can get carried away. It was a top performance but the key is to produce this type of performance on a regular basis.”

Central defender Jack O’Connell also feels the Blades are evolving after making it four Championship wins in succession as they moved up to third in the fledgling table.

He scored his first Championship goal for the club with a six-yard header from Oliver Norwood’s inch-perfect free-kick delivery in the sixth minute and reflected: “It was a very good win but it’s a long old season. We started well last time but faded away but we have improved our squad and the signs are really good so, hopefully, we can challenge.

“Today was a massive win because Villa are a top side and they are going to be up there. I don’t see why we can’t challenge. When we start well and get in front we can beat anyone. We have a lot more experience now. The staff have learned and the players have learned. There were a lot of us last season who had never played in the Championship for a full season and so we have learned from our mistakes. We still have to be a bit cuter at times but we can learn about that.”

Of his goal, he added: “Funnily enough, the manager said before that game that I was going to score and it’s been a long time coming to be fair.”

O’Connell’s goal was followed before the break by others from Mark Duffy and Norwood as the Blades out-passed and out-fought the visitors, former Blades manager Bruce admitting: “We did not see it coming but if you do not do the basics you get punished against a very good Sheffield team who blew us away in that first half.”

Four minutes after the restart, it was game over as Blades captain Billy Sharp struck with a shot on the turn to ensure there was no way back for the Villa.

Duffy’s goal typified the Blades tenacity, outmuscling John McGinn in midfield and driving forward before letting fly from outside the area to beat Orjan Nyland down to his left.

The goalkeeper was at fault in the 41st minute when Norwood’s free-kick caught him napping as it was whipped in to the near post and bounced in off the scrambling Nyland’s chest.

Anwar El Ghazi beat the offside trap to make it 4-1 in the 61st minute but Nyland prevented David McGoldrick making it 5-1 at the far post and Sharp was ruled offside after knocking the ball in.

With new faces to blend in, Wilder says: “I want difficult decisions, I don’t want easy ones. There has to be a group mentality with everybody knocking on the door.”

Sheffield United: Henderson, Basham, Egan, O’Connell; Freeman, Norwood, Duffy (Lafferty 72), Fleck (Lundstram 63), Stevens; McGoldrick, Sharp (Washington 81). Unused substitutes: Woodburn, Coutts, Stearman, Moore.

Aston Villa: Nylan, Tuanzebe (Hourihane 63), Chester, Jedinak, Hutton (Taylor 76); Elmohamady, Whelan, McGinn (Hepburn-Murphy 76), El Ghazi; Grealish; Kodjia. Unused substitutes: Lansbury, Bree, Bjarnason, Moreira.

Referee: J Linington (Isle of Wight).