Alan Biggs’ Sheffield United column: Blades beware – danger lurks at the New York Stadium

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder

If  Sheffield United don’t dominate possession at Rotherham on Saturday this column will quake in astonishment.

But it won’t come crashing down if Paul Warne’s side manage to take something from the game.

The challenge facing Chris Wilder’s side is to be more clinical and ruthless. Unlikely as it may seem, the Millers’ clash requires both qualities more than most.

You can only admire the job Warne is doing in keeping Rotherham above the drop zone. In relative terms, it is every bit as impressive as Wilder’s achievement at the other end of the table.

On pounds, shillings and pence, neither side should be where they are. That is why I think Wilder and company will be alive to the danger of facing shades of themselves at the New York Stadium.

Not that the styles of play are similar. Rotherham use a longer game, preferring to play in the final third around a terrific young centre-forward in Michael Smith – whereas United pass from the back. Within this conflict comes the menace to United.

Of eight home games this season, Warne’s men have won four, losing only once. In many they have had a fraction of the ball.Here’s two of the stand-out results with possession in brackets: Rotherham 1 (37%) Derby 0 (63%); Rotherham 2 (28%) Swansea 1 (72%).

These figures are not random or isolated. In a 2-2 home draw with Stoke, for instance, Rotherham had just 35% of the game.

The results can’t be coincidental either.

If there has been a flaw in the Blades’ sustained assault on the Championship it is a failure to profit from pressure on opponents. It is not so much missed chances, as inaccuracy with the final ball or cross.

This also explains why Wilder is setting the bar high on January recruitment. The club’s warring co-owners should know that the manager is determined to recruit from the bracket of striker mentioned here last week when I named Jermain Defoe and Shane Long among potential targets.

United might not get either of them but Wilder is aiming in that area – and it will cost in wages plus likely loan fees, if not in terms of permanent deals. The scepticism of some fans is understandable. Be nice to see the club prove them wrong this time.

Strangely, you feel that the deadlock at the top of the club could possibly have been resolved had United been down-table. Maybe Kevin McCabe or Prince Abdullah would have been able to the other out in those less-than-appealing circumstances.

But the tantalising prospect of the Premier League has made the club worth more and quite possibly entrenched the designs of both parties.

Hopefully this will not prevent a drive from the top of the club when it is most needed – not least by the individuals themselves.Meanwhile, United have a tricky hurdle to negotiate this weekend in a game which everyone, notwithstanding Rotherham’s home record, expects them to win as Wilder attempts to maintain the pressure on all fronts.