Harry Maguire has warned Rotherham United that Sheffield United are now a very different team to the one they beat at New York Stadium seven months ago, writes James Shield.
Then United, who lost 3-1 to their South Yorkshire rivals, were struggling for both form and confidence after making a wretched start to the season under Nigel Clough’s predecessor David Weir.
However, 42 games, 19 victories and a change of manager later, the FA Cup semi-finalists enter tonight’s rearranged fixture with a mathematical chance of finishing inside the top six and preparing for Sunday’s Wembley showpiece against Hull City.
Maguire told The Star last night: “There’s no comparison with back then. We’re playing much better and we’re playing with confidence which makes us a much tougher team.
“We’ve been on a great run and got ourselves out of trouble. There’s a massive game at the weekend to look forward to as well.
“If you’d said back then that we’d still be in with a shot of the play-offs, even if it is an outside one, and getting ready for an FA Cup semi-final then I’d probably have laughed at you. But it does go to show how things have changed.”
Rotherham, who are already assured of a place in the end of term knockouts, will make the short journey to Bramall Lane intent on closing the six point gap between themselves and second-placed Brentford should the Londoners fail to beat Crawley Town.
Coming less than a week before they face City in the capital, Clough acknowledged yesterday that United “could probably do without” the distraction of a local derby having already contested 16 fixtures since February 1.
But, echoing the former England international’s sentiments, Maguire insisted that hectic schedule will not dilute the hosts’ focus.
“Whoever steps out there on that pitch won’t be pulling out of anything,” he continued. “We’ll be going full into everything, don’t worry about that.
“Wembley is massive but whoever faces Rotherham will be giving 100 per cent because want to go there with momentum.”
Jose Baxter opened the scoring for United, now 11th, when they faced Steve Evans’ side in September before second-half goals from Kieran Agard, Daniel Nardiello and Robert Milsom condemned them to a third straight League One defeat.
“We’ve shown lately that we’ve got a lot of ability in this squad,” Maguire added. “But it also shows how badly we were under-performing to begin with. Ourselves as players have got to take the blame for that, not the coaching staff.”