Chris Wilder accuses critics of Sheffield United's performance at Fulham of rewriting history
Chris Wilder dismissed suggestions that Sheffield United were overly cautious during their defeat by Fulham, insisting the approach his team adopted mirrored the one which saw them finish ninth in the table last season.
The result at Craven Cottage, which Wilder later conceded almost certainly marked the end of his club’s stay in the top-flight, saw the visitors’ strategy come under scrutiny after they mustered only two shots on target during a match both sides described beforehand as must win.
Speaking ahead of their journey to west London, Wilder accused some observers of underestimating the size of the challenge United have faced since being promoted to the Premier League two years ago - reminding how despite being owned by a billionaire and striking deals for the likes of Ademola Lookman and Ruben Loftus Cheek, Scott Parker’s men were also embroiled in a desperate battle for survival.
The disparity in financial might and experience makes it impossible, Wilder argued, for United to simply try and overwhelm opponents.
“You come away from home, and this is the Premier League by the way, and you try to get a foothold in the game,” he said, arguing the story of United’s challenge for Europe last term has been rewritten.
“People think we can come here and just open up. If you do, the you are entitled to that thought process. But we can’t.
“When we got results last season, we never did that. All of the games are pretty similar. They’re basically the same and they’re also the same as our first year back, when we got results against the likes of West Ham, Arsenal, Bournemouth and Norwich.”
“The difference now,” Wilder continued, “Is that we’re making mistakes and they’re getting punished.
“All of us are making them, but they’re getting punished and we aren’t punishing the opposition.
“But I say it again: This is the Premier League - Ruben Loftus Cheek, Ademola Lookman. And this us us. People within the game appreciate where we are at.”
Loftus-Cheek, on loan from Chelsea, impressed throughout a contest settled by Lookman’s second-half strike. An England international, although Fulham’s neighbours are subsidising a large portion of his £150,000 wage he would have been beyond Wilder’s reach in the transfer market.
Lookman, on loan from RB Leipzig, scored after Chris Basham, a veteran of United’s 2019 League One title winning squad, was forced out with a hamstring injury which almost certainly rules him out of next weekend’s game against Liverpool.
“You go on the road at this level, you get a base,” Wilder, whose side are bottom of the table, added. “I never felt ‘Dear me, we’re under real pressure here.’ We get to half time and it’s the first job done. We know we aren’t coming here, winning four nil and having 20 shots on target.”