Eddie Howe backs Sheffield United to maintain their push for Europe

Eddie Howe, the AFC Bournemouth manager, paid tribute to Sheffield United’s tactical acumen after watching his side beaten at Bramall Lane, insisting Chris Wilder’s possess the flexibility to maintain their challenge for the Champions League places.

Monday, 10th February 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Monday, 10th February 2020, 9:48 am

Speaking after watching goals from Billy Sharp and John Lundstram cancel-out Callum Wilson’s opener for the visitors, Howe admitted he always suspected United would prove formidable opposition because of their ability to quickly change approach.

Only 10 months after securing promotion from the Championship, Wilder’s side travelled to Dubai last night ranked fifth in the Premier League; two points behind fourth-placed Chelsea who travel to South Yorkshire in April.

Although Wilder again refused to be drawn the subject of qualifying for Europe, Howe insisted it would be a mistake not to include United in the conversation.

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“I always anticipated how difficult this game would be,” he said. “They can pass the ball, they can go direct and they have different ways of scoring.

“So knew, right from the start, how tough this was going to be.”

Howe, whose side enter their own mid-season break in 16th, nevertheless felt his players had missed a huge opportunity to lift themselves clear of the relegation zone after taking the lead through Callum Wilson.

The England international, whose performance was described as “superb” by Wilder, exploited United’s slow start with a clinical finish before Sharp and Lundstram wrestled back the momentum.

Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe during the Premier League match at Bramall Lane, Sheffield: Danny Lawson/PA Wire.

“They (United) had a period of pressure right before the interval and we couldn’t see it out,” Howe acknowledged, reflecting upon Sharp’s equaliser. “I thought we started really well and you wouldn’t have thought we were in the position we are in.

“There were positives, some good bits, but some not so good bits too. It’s going to be so tight, we can’t waste games.”

“United’s biggest strength,” Howe added. “Is their versatility. I thought that came to the fore out there.”