Sheffield United: ‘Don’t disrespect the Championship by calling Leeds United clash a promotion decider’

Chris Wilder, the Sheffield United manager, has warned it would be "disrespectful" to label Saturday's visit to Elland Road as a promotion decider after Pontus Jansson, the Leeds defender, described it as the "biggest game of our lives."

By James Shield
Thursday, 14th March 2019, 6:51 pm
Updated Thursday, 14th March 2019, 7:03 pm
Chris Wilder: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
Chris Wilder: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

United travel to West Yorkshire ranked third in the Championship, two points behind their latest opponents, with only nine matches of the season remaining.

Although he made no attempt to downplay the significance of the fixture, Wilder refuted claims it will effectively decide which of the two reaches the Premier League automatically following Jansson's implicit suggestion to the contrary.

Pontus Jansson celebrates: Mike Egerton/PA Wire.

"It will give a big boost to the winner," Wilder said. "But it's not season defining. "I've got total respect for everyone there. Total respect. But it would be a lack of respect, from me, to suggest this is going to decide what happens.

“It would be disrespectful to the division and especially the teams we've got to play after this."

United will enter the international break a point above their arch-rivals if they prevail in front of a sell-out crowd. Wilder's men beat Leeds both at home and away last season but lost 1-0 when the two clubs met at Bramall Lane earlier this term, when Dean Henderson's error presented Pablo Hernandez with a late winner.

With Gareth Southgate recently acknowledging the on-loan goalkeeper is being considered for a full England call-up after being capped at under-21 level, Wilder said: "Dean has done unbelievable. He's got some unbelievable 'keepers he's got to get bast to achieve that but he's up there with the best in the Championship, without a shadow of a doubt.

Sheffield United are third, one place behind Leeds: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

"Leeds brought in a lad from Real Madrid (Kiko Casilla), so he's clearly not bad is he? Then there's Sam Johnstone, who still gives me sleepless night after he made save after save against us for Aston Villa last year.

"He (Henderson) was definitely the best in League One when he was on loan at Shrewsbury last season."

Despite refusing to be drawn on suggestions he could attempt to sign Henderson on a permanent basis from Manchester United at the end of the campaign, Wilder said: "If you speak to Dean, if the door is not closed at his parent club, he's a player who wants to go out and play. 

"I think that's changing with a lot of youngsters now. Maybe a few years ago, you had ones who were happy to walk around town with their Gucci toilet bag saying 'I play for so and so' but never be involved. Dean wants to play."

Speaking ahead of the trip to Leeds, Wilder admitted he is happy with the manner in which his squad is approaching the final stages of the campaign.

"It's a sign of the maturity of the group," he said. "They're not over-hyped. They're not horizontal either. But like I say, this isn't season defining and I say that out of respect for the fixture list we've got and the one Leeds have got too."