"I really feel for the players" says Sheffield United boss after defeat to Chelsea
Chris Wilder, the Sheffield United manager, insisted his players should “take great heart” from their performance against a Chelsea side he rates as one of the best in Europe as the battle for Premier League survival enters its decisive phase.
Speaking after a second-half penalty from Jorginho saw Thomas Tuchel’s side condemn United to defeat, Wilder admitted “self inflicted errors” had denied them the opportunity to climb off the bottom of the table but that, “considering the bigger picture”, he had seen enough to suggest they “can win games of football” between now and the end of the campaign.
Revealing details of his post-match address to The Star, Wilder said: “I’ve told the boys afterwards that they can take something away with them from this. Our attitude has given us opportunities in the past and it’s giving us opportunities now.
“I’m not in there telling them how great they’ve been because we’re honest and we were disappointed with their goals, especially the timing of them. But picking those pieces out, I am human and I feel for the players because they are giving everything. There are some really big challenges ahead of us and we’re not thinking ‘x,y and z’. But the really big thing to realise is that we’ve seen the back of some really huge clubs.”
United, who are 12 points from safety, entered last night’s contest in encouraging form after beating Newcastle, Manchester United and fellow strugglers West Bromwich Albion. Eight days earlier they had also run leaders Manchester City close at the Etihad Stadium.
Confirming Enda Stevens could return to action when Bristol City visit Bramall Lane in the FA Cup on Wednesday, Wilder added: “The last three teams out of four, we’ve played powerhouse football clubs. Not just in this country but top European clubs. We are doing our best to make up the difference and we are making it competitive. So we should take a lot away with us from that.”
Chelsea took the lead just before the interval when Mount scored for the sixth time this term, firing the ball beyond Aaron Ramsdale from Timo Werner’s assist. But United drew level early in the second-half when Rudiger, under pressure from Burke, prodded the ball past Edouard Mendy and into the back of his own net. However, only four minutes later Chelsea restored their advantage from the spot. John Fleck and substitute Billy Sharp went close during the closing stages - the latter with an audacious overhead kick - but United were unable to find an equaliser.
Tuchel, who is unbeaten in his first four games since replacing Frank Lampard towards the end of last month, was full of praise for United’s performance; expressing his surprise that they find themselves in trouble at the foot of the rankings.
“What would it help to talk about the top four? We want to try everything and now the guys have put themselves in a situation where they are the hunters,” the former PSG and Borussia Dortmund head coach, said. “This is the best example. You see that Sheffield (United) are low in the table but if you analyse the results, they have had great results against top teams like Manchester United. You have to stay humble at all times. This showed that.”