Chris Wilder jokes he could be forced to take extreme measures as Sheffield United's defensive crisis grows worse
Chris Wilder, the Sheffield United manager, has joked Oli McBurnie could be required to play as a makeshift defender after Phil Jagielka’s sending-off during last night’s win over Aston Villa left him with only two fit centre-halves for Saturday’s game against Southampton.
A first-half strike from David McGoldrick saw United record only their fourth win of the Premier League season, despite playing the majority of the second with 10 men following Jagielka’s contentious dismissal for denying Anwar El Ghazi a goal scoring opportunity.
With Chris Basham, Jack O’Connell and John Egan ruled-out by injury, Wilder admitted the selection issues which have contributed to his squad’s difficulties this term are now at “ridiculous” levels.
“Oli Mac, the big Scottish centre-half, he might have to go in there,” Wilder, who introduced the centre-forward during the closing stages, said. “He was like Richard Gough at the end, heading everything away, and helping us get across the line.
“Joking aside, I’m not sure what we will do. But we’ll have to come up with something because it’s head down and get on with it, the same as always.”
Jagielka saw red when referee Robert Jones reviewed the incident on a pitch side monitor, after the VAR Graham Scott intervened. Scott was on duty when John Egan controversially saw red at Villa Park earlier this term.
“He was gone, as soon as the ref went over,” Wilder, who has questioned a number of decisions which have gone against his team in recent weeks. “I don’t now where I’m at with it now. Jayden Bogle, after a tackle on him at Fulham, is lucky his season isn’t over but apparently it wasn’t reckless so nothing happened. Maybe I’ve gone past caring now. I even thought Didzy was going to be flagged offside when he scored, that’s how it gets you,”
Dean Smith, the Villa manager, admitted United could feel aggrieved by Jones’ interpretation of Jagielka’s challenge in El Ghazi.
“They had a question about whether the covering player would have got across,” he said. “Who knows if he would have done? I suppose nobody really knows. That was the question they had and I could understand why they were asking it. But we didn’t show enough quality after that.”
“We started the second half really well, we were crisper on the ball, but we haven’t taken our big chances,” Smith continued. “It was a really poor goal to concede for us. He (McGoldrick) peeled off John McGinn, we didn’t track that run, and then Emiliano (Martinez) seemed to think the ball was going out of play. They were hard to break down and we put some aimless balls into the box.”
Despite claiming a deserved victory, United remain at the bottom of the table and 12 points adrift of safety with 11 games remaining.
McBurnie entered the fray when Wilder decided to haul off Oliver Burke, despite bringing him on as a substitute earlier in the game.
Confirming Burke was not withdrawn because of injury, Wilder confessed: “It was a decision to get the right result. I’ve said before, I’m not bothered about individual feelings or whatever because we won a game of football.”