The moment Chris Wilder fired the first shot in psychological war against Aston Villa

It was the first shot in the psychological war surrounding Saturday’s match with Aston Villa. And Chris Wilder, the Sheffield United manager, fired it almost a week ago.

Wednesday, 11th December 2019, 5:33 pm

Speaking before his team’s visit to another newly promoted club, last season’s Championship title winners Norwich City, Wilder described the game as “one nobody expected to see” in the Premier League because of the financial might many of their divisional rivals possessed.

He went on to suggest that “no one” will have been surprised to see play-off winners Villa contest a top six place because of the financial resources the Midlands outfit enjoyed.

Wilder was telling the truth; neither United nor City were tipped to go up automatically. But the timing of his statement - and decision to insert Villa’s name into the debate - is unlikely to have been a surprise with Dean Smith’s side next on the agenda.

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Aston Villa manager Dean Smith: Mike Egerton/PA Wire.

“No one thought we’d be up there,” Wilder said, referring to both United and City. “Not when you look at the money or what we’d spent compared to some others.”

“If you look at the names in the division last year, big powerful clubs like Leeds, Aston Villa and others, I think that’s where most people were looking.”

United climbed to eighth when they beat City 2-1, thanks to goals from Enda Stevens and George Baldock. Villa are 17th, having lost five of their last seven outings, albeit during a sequence of fixtures which has pitted them against some of the Premier League’s leading names, including Leicester City and Chelsea.