Alan Biggs at Large: Saluting Chris Wilder's pioneering way of playing at table-topping Sheffield United

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Top of the table. When your budget is 17th best in the Championship that bears repeating. Top of the table!

But let’s go front to back for a moment. Certainly not the way Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United do it but when people talk about the Blades as an attacking side - and they truly are - the focus is rightly more on “defenders” than creators and goalscorers.

Why the quotation marks? A Bramall Lane stopper of another era sums it up best.

The centre backs look like wingers!” gasps Paul Beesley.

What would have happened if he’d played like that? “It wasn’t allowed ... I’d have been picking up my P45,” says the central defensive partner of Brian Gayle during another great period of Bramall Lane’s modern history.

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But if playing this way would have been extraordinary then, it is also remarkable now. Even in these refreshing times of generally attractive, open football.

When you think about it, Wilder doesn’t just have two wing backs, he has four.

By now it’s no secret but it’s still mighty hard for teams to stop. Can you think of another side that commits forward to such an extent - on both flanks?

READ MORE: The incredible graph that illustrates Chris Wilder and Co’s commitment to attacking football

Blades boss Chris Wilder

Blades boss Chris Wilder

If you’ll allow, I’m minded of a scenario across the city in the 1980s. Then Owls boss Howard Wilkinson, also an innovator in the way he revived Wednesday, signed a second winger in Mark Chamberlain to balance Brian Marwood on the other flank.

Wilkinson already had two formidable full back raiders in Mel Sterland and Nigel Worthington. With Chamberlain added, it was an exciting set-up but leaked goals and the manager took a step back from a system that effectively fielded four wingers at times.

No criticism intended as this was a different, less expansive era. But you have to admire Wilder’s long-term, full-on commitment to United’s buccaneering style. As he is fond of saying, it risks to reward.

Chris Basham and Jack O’Connell are simply brilliant at getting forward to supplement the excellent Kieron Freeman and Enda Stevens. Of course, it couldn’t work if they weren’t - or if they were not athletic enough to be good defenders into the bargain.

The other member of the back three, record signing John Egan, is more stay-at-home but also adept at playing and advancing from deep. You have to say this trio are simply exceptional and you can’t measure them on goals conceded (there will always be opportunities for the opposition). You have to value them equally on goals scored.

Just as they would highlight players further forward for defending from the front and knowing when to drop back to cover gaps.

An admiring Beesley, a stalwart of the Dave Bassett days, says of the team as a whole: “They’re looking to get forward as quickly as they can. It’s intricate passing but it’s all quick.

“The game has got faster. The players are so fit. We thought we were fit. We were. But now you’ve got nutritionists, sports scientists, everything. It’s all geared to being the best you can be.”

No club or manager is making better use of the best values, old and new, than at Sheffield United right now. Or in a more entertaining fashion.