Chris Wilder chooses to remain tight-lipped on talk about his future

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder has refused to elaborate on his comments earlier this week, when he appeared to suggest he could be forced to leave Bramall Lane unless the club’s board of directors follow the recovery plan he has devised should relegation from the Premier League be confirmed.
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As The Star reported on Tuesday, Wilder was unable to offer any guarantees he will remain in charge next season when questioned by journalists about his future ahead of United’s win over Aston Villa.

The uncertainty stems from an apparent disagreement about transfer policy between the 53-year-old and a board of directors headed by owner HRH Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, despite the Saudi Arabian’s insistence earlier this term that he wants to retain Wilder’s services even if United surrender their top-flight status two years after being promoted from the Championship.

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The subject of his relationship with United’s hierarchy was inevitably raised again as Wilder discussed the game against Southampton with members of the media. Although no constructive talks on the issue of squad strengthening and recruitment strategy appear to have taken place between the two men, Wilder said: “I spoke about what I spoke about. So I imagine the powers that be will understand.

“I’ve said what I said, regarding my feelings and thought process in the football club. That’s basically where it’s at from my point of view.”

Speaking before the meeting with Dean Smith’s side - which saw United cut the gap between themselves and 17th placed Newcastle to 12 points - Wilder argued players must be signed rather than sold this summer in order to give him the best possible chance of leading his squad back to the top-flight at the first attempt if, as seems likely, they are relegated.

Having seen United hit hard by injuries and suspensions since finishing ninth last term, Wilder had hoped to complete loan deals for two high-profile names during the winter window. But after making approaches for both Manchester United’s Jesse Lingard and Ben Davies of Preston North End, who went on to join West Ham and Liverpool respectively, Wilder was informed by United’s hierarchy that a block had been put on any incomings.

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That stemmed from their belief that survival was already unlikely and concerns about the performances of some recent purchases. Wilder used his latest briefing to defend his track record in the transfer market, highlighting how brokering temporary or short-term deals for he likes of Gary Madine, Kieran Dowell and James Hanson had fuelled United's climb from the third to the first tier of English football since his appointment in 2016. Dean Henderson, recruited on loan from Lingard's parent club, also proved a huge success in South Yorkshire before eventually returning to Old Trafford.

Chris Wilder and Prince Abdullah: Simon Bellis/SportimageChris Wilder and Prince Abdullah: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
Chris Wilder and Prince Abdullah: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

“You always have to position yourself and not think with emotions,” Prince Abdullah said, during an interview with a Premier League rights-holder last month. “We had a look at our position in the table, if we brought in two or three loans and they didn’t work out, it would add to the burden that we would have to manage next year.”

“You have to look at our past record in loans, especially in January. The board made that decision. When the team is playing well, they don’t need anyone.”

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