Sheffield United: Mo Besic told to ignore meaningless midfield labels

Chris Wilder's comments about Mo Besic following the midfielder's move to Bramall Lane provided an insight, not only into his reasons for signing the Bosnia and Herzegovina international on loan, but also the combination of science and old school methods responsible for propelling Sheffield United through the divisions.

By James Shield
Wednesday, 14 August, 2019, 22:06
Mo Besic signs for Sheffield United: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Besic, who is scheduled to spent the rest of the season in South Yorkshire, operates in a mainly defensive role for his country but further forward in the domestic game.

Although the 26-year-old's experience could prove invaluable as United attempt to plot a course towards survival, Wilder rebuffed attempts to pigeon hole the player when discussing his arrival. In, to underline his frustration with some modern trends, the most strenuous of terms.

"It does my nut in when I hear people talk about defensive midfielder, attacking midfielders and all that," he said. "In my day, good midfielders were good midfielders. Full stop.

"Good midfielders can get across the pitch and do all the things a midfielder should be able to do, like win the ball in a tackle, pass it and get across the pitch."

Although Besic owes his presence at United to a detailed selection process, which sees head of recruitment Paul Mitchell collect data on performance curves, personality and contractual situations before identifying potential new signings, Wilder employs more subjective methods to whittle down the list.

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"We use our eyes as well," he told The Star earlier this summer. "Sometimes, you've got to trust what you see and what you feel."

On loan at Middlesbrough last term, Besic missed United's visit to Teeside at the beginning of the campaign and also the return fixture in February. But his displays for Tony Pulis' side confirmed the physical presence Besic brings, allied with a strong technique, will be a valuable addition to United's engine room. Certainly, on the evidence of last weekend's draw with Bournemouth, the strength and power of PL teams is considerably higher than their counterparts in the Championship. Eddie Howe, whose squad could hardly be described as the most combative in the division, still went about their business with real bite and edge.

Mo Besic could make his debut this weekend: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Crucially, in a group lacking top-flight know-how, Besic, aged 26, has appeared nearly 40 times for Everton at the highest level and also represented Hamburg in the Bundesliga before travelling with Bosnia to the 2014 World Cup finals. Clearly, given Wilder's assessment of what what constitutes effective midfield play, Besic will be expected to utilise these qualities in a roving role, rather than being constrained by labels or rigid tactical frameworks which stifle creativity.

"We've got a good mix of youth and experience," Wilder said. "He brings more and compliments the group."

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder: Jonathan Gawthorpe