Sheffield United: What pleased Chris Wilder the most during The Blades latest friendly?

The result was encouraging although, as Chris Wilder later acknowledged "with genuine respect", it came against opponents who will begin next season four rungs below them on the English football ladder.

Wednesday, 24th July 2019, 3:37 pm
Updated Wednesday, 24th July 2019, 6:02 pm
Manager Chris Wilder welcomes new signing Lys Mousset

But the most pleasing aspect of Tuesday night's friendly with Chesterfield, from the Sheffield United manager's perspective, was the sight of partnerships developing across the pitch.

Billy Sharp, whose hat-trick helped propel United to a 5-0 victory, and summer signing Callum Robinson both demonstrated they are learning each other's games with a series of almost instinctive flicks and tricks. Another new arrival - Luke Freeman - provided an assist for the visitors' captain before writing his own name on the scoresheet following a late positional shift.

"There's things you want to see at this stage," Wilder said, "Players working well out there on the pitch, getting minutes in their legs obviously but also learning what we're all about.

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Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder during the pre-season friendly match at the Proact Stadium, Chesterfield: Tim Goode/PA Wire.

"That's the biggest thing, finding out about the type of runs people like to make, the type of runs we want them to make and the positions to take up. So yes, although results are always important to us, there's other things we look for as well."

Although Robinson's pace is clearly going to be a weapon - his arrival from Preston North End, combined with the acquisition of Lys Mousset, promises to bring a different dimension to United's attack - Sharp's exploits reminded he is still arguably the best finisher at the club. Seventy-two hours earlier, after naming the 33-year-old on the bench, Wilder watched his team create numerous opportunities during another warm-up fixture at Northampton Town. They won 2-0, but only after Oliver Norwood scored twice from the spot.

"I was pleased we tidied up aspects of our play going forward," Wilder continued, reflecting upon events at the Proact Stadium. "I think we needed to do that and so it was good to see. That was another indicator of progress."

Another was the fluency of United's approach play, where Robinson in particular impressed. It was an indication, even though the level of opposition must be factored in, that Wilder's most recent acquisitions are beginning to get to grips with his preferred 3-5-2 system. Or United's take - involving overlapping centre-halves and attack-minded wing-backs - to be exact.

Sheffield United's Billy Sharp controls the ball during the pre-season friendly match at the Proact Stadium, Chesterfield: Tim Goode/PA Wire.

"You want players to be involved out there," Wilder continued. "That's ultimately how they learn about what we do and what we expect of them. They get to know each other that way so it's vitally important."

Despite deciding against selecting either Mousset or Ravel Morrison for the meeting with Chesterfield, Wilder will be keen for both to be involved during Saturday's game against Barnsley. Mousset was granted permission to miss the fixture against John Sheridan's team after completing his record breaking transfer from AFC Bournemouth only two days earlier. Morrison, Wilder acknowledged, had been "desperate" to play after missing all of United's warm-up fixtures so far. Despite calculating the midfielder's "football intelligence" will enable him to grasp their strategy faster than most, Wilder also recognises those who could find themselves working alongside Morrison must learn to identify his habits on the pitch too. What positions, for example, does he like to take-up under pressure? Where, in the heat of battle, does he prefer to receive the ball? With the margin for error in the top-flight uncomfortably slim, these details and nuances could mean the difference between survival or an immediate return to the Championship.

"We're looking to step things up as we move through (pre-season)," Wilder said. "Every match, we want to see that happening, see different improvement in different things."

Ravel Morrison and Chris Wilder: Simon Bellis/Sportimage