Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder issues a warning to his players ahead of two 'huge' games

Chris Wilder told his players they must improve ahead of their forthcoming meetings with Manchester City and Liverpool after watching them draw with Watford.

Friday, 27th December 2019, 6:00 am
Sheffield United's Oliver Norwood (left) celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game during the Premier League match at Bramall Lane, Sheffield. PA Photo. Picture date: Thursday December 26, 2019. See PA story SOCCER Sheff Utd. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: EDITORIAL USE ONLY No use with unauthorised audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.

The Sheffield United manager, whose side visit the reigning Premier League champions on Sunday before travelling to Anfield next week, also failed to take any comfort from the fact four key members of his squad will be available for the meeting with Pep Guardiola’s charges after avoiding their fifth cautions of the seasons during the Boxing Day game.

Chris Basham, John Lundstram, George Baldock and captain Oliver Norwood, whose penalty cancelled-out Gerard Deulofeu’s opener for Nigel Pearson’s men, had all entered the fixture - United’s 19th of the season - on four yellow cards.

“If that’s a positive to take, well it’s a small one,” Wilder said. “Because if you only dip your toe in then there’s not much chance of you picking a booking up, is there?

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“I don’t think we were intense enough out there, I thought we took too many touches at times and we over-played at times.”

“To be fair, when you’ve got two huge matches like we have coming up and you go into them knowing you are one away from being suspended, well it can be difficult. I understand that.

“Everyone wants to be a part of those but then again, if you only dip your toe in, then I might change things up anyway. There’s always that option.”

Although Wilder was at pains to point out he was not personally blaming any of the quartet for United’s failure to overcome opponents battling against relegation - Baldock won the spot-kick which Norwood converted - he was unimpressed by technical aspects of their performance.

But, with United sixth in the table, Wilder refused to be overly critical ahead of their outing against City and January 2nd’s clash with Jurgen Klopp’s league leaders.

“Why was it flat? Rory (McIlroy), going back to my golf analogies, doesn’t always shoot a 62,” he said. “Sometimes it just doesn’t happen.

“It’s not a lack of desire. You can just have a few off the pace.

“It’s not as intense as we have been. I want performances, yes. But I’m not expecting a nine out of 10 for every single game.”

“I wanted to go for it at the end,” Wilder added. “But I didn’t think we were playing well enough to go for it. So I took that decision.”