As he contemplates whether or not to pitch Joe Riley into battle against AFC Wimbledon this weekend, Chris Wilder has explained the attraction of signing youngsters from Manchester United on loan.
Although calibre and character can be impossible to guarantee, as John Cofie’s disappointing spell in South Yorkshire proved three seasons ago, Old Trafford’s refusal to demand special treatment for their players usually means they possess “the necessary hunger” according to Sheffield United’s manager.
“They don’t demand that these lads are put straight into the team and then stay there,” Wilder said. “They accept they’ve got to work their way in like everybody else. Earn the right to play and then battle to keep hold of that jersey.
“Listen, if you’re with Manchester United then you’ve obviously got something about you. That goes without saying. Nothing is guaranteed but, when they tell their lads that they’ve got to work like everybody else, that does tend to stack the odds in your favour.”
Riley, aged 20, was one of four new players to arrive at Bramall Lane during last month’s transfer window with Ethan Ebanks-Landell, Harry Chapman and Daniel Lafferty extending, renewing or renegotiating their agreements with the League One club. Despite making two appearances for the former Premier League champions, Riley has yet to feature for United since joining on a short-term deal. But, after challenging his team to eradicate the defensive errors which have cost them dear in recent weeks, Wilder could hand the wing-back an opportunity against Neal Ardley’s side.
“One of the things I like about Joe is that he’s already shown the right attitude,” Wilder said. “Simply by asking to come out and play football, when he could have stayed and been quite comfortable over there, tells you a lot about the lad. He doesn’t expect any favours either, he knows he’s got to show he should the picked, the same as anybody else.”
“It’s an experience that will serve him much better in the long-run,” Wilder added. “Nobody, I don’t care who there are, just gets put straight into a team. That’s not football. That’s not how the real world works and Joe and Manchester United get and appreciate that. If he’s going to go back there and have a career, he’s going to have to work hard. So, from their perspective, it makes no sense for that to happen to him here.”
Speaking earlier this month, Wilder insisted he would refuse to do business with top-flight clubs who placed “ridiculous” demands on teams looking to borrow players from their youth systems. But, with the transfer window now closes, United’s coaching staff can now focus their attention on securing results rather than devising recruitment strategies. Despite entering Saturday’s match second in the table, Wilder’s team have taken just a point from their last three games. Although he has ruled-out wholesale changes, the 49-year-old recently hinted he could tweak United’s 3-5-2 system in a bid to arrest their downturn in form.
“We’ve got options, good options,” Wilder said. “We’re always looking at what’s best, what gives us the best chance, to perform well.”