Alan Biggs: Nothing off the table if Sheffield United are to move forward ... including selling big names

Sheffield United and a simple equation. Improve on ninth in the Premier League with the same squad = virtually impossible.

Wednesday, 5th August 2020, 12:57 pm

Improve on ninth while, with a relatively modest budget, wheeling and dealing via a sale or two = improbable.

Note the difference. Equation two offers greater hope of more Chris Wilder conjuring - because improbable is seldom impossible for this manager.

It’s also why I tend to feel nothing is off limits in this shortest of close-seasons; no sale for a big and tempting offer, no buy at the right price, no surprise deal.

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Jack O'Connell is a player who has looked at home in the Premier League and would strengthen most top-flight sides (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Logic tells you it’s the only way. I recall a backstage conversation with the Blades boss as we were about to go on air for my Sheffield Live show after promotion in 2019.

It was knockabout stuff in the studio and I gave Chris my two pennies worth - that United would stay up in their Premier League return season and that the following year would be more of a problem.

He emphatically agreed.

That is the point we have reached. It doesn’t mean he would still agree, though I suspect he would.

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What he and United achieved in the last season was unnatural, bordering on supernatural. Human beings in the shape of professional footballers are not built to perform out of their skin in nearly every game. That is what happened.

It can’t last more than a season at top level, can it? Those players have the belief to refute that but some reinvigoration or freshness is required, a new impetus whether from within or contrived.

No-one wants to lose a Jack O’Connell, a John Egan or a John Fleck. But if the bid was high enough and a couple of positions could be improved as a result, what then?

Certainly not saying that is a preferred option, far from it, only that Wilder has to be alive to the market in all its complexity right now. Because improving this United is complex to say the least, especially in view of the uncertainty surrounding an absolute key man in goalkeeper Dean Henderson and the cost of replacing the Manchester United keeper after two seasons on loan.

The manager will have his fingerprints on every piece of business and rightly so. From a range of options, he’ll be ready at any moment to respond and press the button on potential chain reactions.

What’s changed this summer is that, through far-sighted Wilder/ Paul Mitchell recruitment, the Blades have a number of players worth serious money. Including players on the fringe like Lys Mousset.

United are still not in a position to entirely ring fence any of them, only to demand top dollar with the club’s finances secure.

It’s another huge leap beyond that to be able to unconditionally keep and recruit on top.

So Wilder has a jigsaw puzzle in front of him and, much as continuity has been key and the nucleus will remain, I don’t rule out him shuffling a few pieces if necessary.