Chris Wilder on his relationship with Daniel Farke
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Three years have passed since United’s manager, angered by the German’s poor time keeping ahead of a Championship fixture between the two clubs, launched what one newspaper in Norfolk would later describe as “an astonishing verbal assault”. But Wilder’s outburst, during which Farke was accused of disrespecting pretty much anyone who had ever set foot inside Bramall Lane by missing the pre-match meeting, still piques people’s interest whenever United and City meet. As, jams permitting, they are scheduled to do in a crucial Premier League fixture later this afternoon.
“I should probably pass that info on,” Wilder smiled, having been informed of United’s directive. “In fact, I definitely will because, as everyone knows, I don’t like Daniel being late.”
Of all the relationships in top-flight football, the one between Wilder and Farke is surely the most complex. They are the best of enemies inside the technical area. But away from the game, maybe because they know how to push each other’s buttons, the two are actually pretty good friends.
“I get on alright with Daniel,” Wilder said. “I think I push everyone’s buttons during a match, that’s just the way it is.
“We’re trying to win and they’re trying to win. So it’s never going to be all nice and polite then, is it. That’s not the way things work. But we know each other from managers’ get-togethers and stuff like that. He’s a good guy, a nice guy. But is he nice during matches? What do you think?”
Wilder’s supposed conflicts with Farke have, together with a number of other incidents since that eventful clash in 2017, helped fuel an unlikely rivalry between two teams who, on the face of it, boast plenty in common. Both try and play expansive football and both were promoted from the Championship last term, with Norwich lifting the title while United secured the runners-up berth.
“I do enjoy it down on the touchline,” Wilder admitted. “If you shout and bawl you get judged and if you sit back, you get judged.
“It’s difficult when there’s a big crowd and I have to get a message across to George (Baldock), who is copping a deaf ‘un on the other side of the pitch, even though the players can problem solve and they don’t need more or Al (United’s assistant manager Alan Knill) all the time.
“But we’ll stick up for our area, we don’t get bullied but neither do we intimidate. I love that side of things and so do other managers because, let me tell you, it’s the second best thing to putting in a challenge in the middle of the park.”
Farke, despite his gentle demeanor during press conferences, seemingly thrive on it too.
“He’s definitely not gentle on the touchline,” laughed Wilder. “Far from it.
“I probably have this perception as being a rough old northern boy, which I am. Other people, Daniel included, have an image too but there was no love lost when they (Norwich’s bench) were all waving at me when I got sent-up to the stands against them once, after having a bit of a headloss. But I get on well with Dan and always enjoy having a chat with him whenever our path’s cross.”
Despite finishing behind Norwich in the second-tier, United have proven more effective in the top-flight. Eighth in the table, they have designs on qualifying for Europe while the visitors are bottom. However, it has not escaped Wilder’s attention that Norwich, after beating Leicester City and ending Tottenham Hotspur’s hopes of reaching the FA Cup quarter-finals, are showing signs of life.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for Dan and his team,” Wilder said. “They were the best team in the Championship and we pushed them ever so close, it was a terrific battle towards the end of the season and we’d have loved to have won the title as well.
“There’s definitely life left in them, and I’m sure he knows that. It’s a nervous time being at the bottom but I’m not going to sit here and say how good we are because we’ve got where we have through being honest and humble and desperate to kick-on.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they got the results they needed to stay up, seriously I wouldn’t. But we want to try and make sure they don’t get one here.”