Alan Biggs' Sheffield United Column: Blades' efforts in the Premier League have been nothing short of Herculean
It’s an unexpected, not to say astonishing, claim to make going into a 15th game at this level – but the Premier League still doesn’t know how to combat Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United.
It’s a truth backed up ahead of Newcastle’s visit by the illustrious former Blades boss who championed Wilder’s appointment.
And all the more reason why the warning delivered on this page last week regarding the manager’s future should be heeded without further delay.
Wilder himself has to be a little surprised at how well his squad has met the challenge, having conceded last summer that United might have to learn to react to “three or four defeats on the bounce.”
Here we are in December, approaching halfway, and three games is all they’ve lost! All by a single goal. Remarkable. And never more than one defeat on the bounce, currently unbeaten in seven.
This is an Herculean effort considering my firm belief that, in private, the Blades boss would still regard avoiding relegation as a mighty feat. It cannot be counted on yet - and certainly not belittled as a yardstick of doing exceptionally well.
The legendary Dave Bassett said on my Sheffield Live show last week: “I look around and I don’t think too many of the Premier League managers know how to combat them.
“The system suits the players and Chris has been clever with it. No other team has really got on top of it - in terms of putting Sheffield United on the back foot.”
Of course, they know what they are facing and how it’s done. Stopping it is another matter. Many are finding they do so at the expense of nulling their own attacking threat.
When it comes to threats, though, none invokes greater fear than any risk of the Blades losing the man at the heart of all this.
I raise the issue again not to scaremonger but to guard, if possible, against it happening.
For instance, I understand that when Wilder was summoned for talks on the way ahead with the club’s Saudi rulers in Dubai recently, a new deal (replacing the one he pointedly did not gratify with a comment last summer) was not broached.
I’d be surprised, nay amazed, if Wilder’s representatives haven’t already been sounded out by other clubs. Plural.
And you can’t assume - amid speculation of a change at Everton, for instance - that there would not be interest in return, for reasons partly outlined.
He was courted by Newcastle last summer before Steve Bruce and - while on a level below and not so attractive - I believe Stoke pursued Wilder before settling on Michael O’Neill recently.
No party pooping here. Quite the reverse. Sheffield United have an opportunity to get theirs in full swing - they just have to be alive to the danger and take it.