Like so many managers around the world, Chris Wilder can’t help but admire the work of Pep Guardiola and although the two are working almost in different stratospheres at clubs just 31 miles apart, there are similarities in terms of tactics and team temperament.
Hailing from Stocksbridge and Santpedor respectively, though, the differences are vast and Wilder must be forgiven a wry smile when he thinks of the £1billion plus that Guardiola has spent in his career, putting his £4m record purchase of John Egan firmly in the shade.
But yesterday, as he discussed Sheffield United’s Championship clash with Norwich City tomorrow in the bowels of United’s Shirecliffe academy, another distinction arose.
And it concerned the Northern Ireland U21 international, David Parkhouse.
The young striker was on the bench in midweek against Hull City in the Carabao Cup and didn’t get on. A relatively moot point, until the reasons why are examined.
United went into the season with three fit, recognised strikers; David McGoldrick, Billy Sharp and Leon Clarke, last season’s 19-goal top scorer. It is a fact, rather than a criticism, that the trio have a combined age of 95 years and reinforcements have been sought all summer, but didn’t arrive in time for Tuesday.
So Parkhouse got the call. In direct contrast to Guardiola’s stance last season against Burnley when, laughably claiming ‘I haven’t got enough players’, he named only six substitutes on the bench rather than call up a youngster to claim the seventh.
“I don’t need to send messages to my bosses like some managers do by putting five or six on the bench,” Wilder said. “I think it’s a massive missed opportunity for a young boy to be involved in the first team.”
Quite rightly. too. Parkhouse warmed up with United skipper Sharp - a finer role model at United there could hardly be - and took his place on the bench alongside fellow academy graduate Rhys Norrington-Davies.
He’d know he’d earned it, too, and will have benefited immeasurably from the small gesture of being in and around the team.
That same experience helped David Brooks push on and although there’s no guarantee Parkhouse will follow his path to the Premier League, he’ll undoubtedly return to United’s U23s hungrier than ever to walk out on that pitch at Bramall Lane.
There’s probably not a lot Wilder could teach Guardiola tactically but on this occasion of man-management and use of young players, he’s got it spot on.