Motivation for a wounded animal: SEVEN BIG ISSUES from Chris Wilder's press conference ahead of Man Utd clash
Chris Wilder, the Sheffield United manager, faced the media this morning ahead of Wednesday night's trip to Manchester United.
But, with the virtual Zoom press conference coming less than 24 hours after his side were soundly beaten at Newcastle United on Sunday, events in the north east also featured prominently.
While it wouldn't be fair to say that Wilder went on the attack in his press conference, his frustration at Sunday's 3-0 defeat was evident at times. None more so than when a few members of the media attempted to ask about his team selection on Wednesday night at Old Trafford.
Wilder won't be giving anything away
That much is for sure. The United manager was angry that a fan leaked news of John Fleck's injury before the Aston Villa game, and was in no mood to drop any hints about the side he will pick to face Manchester United on Wednesday. He has decisions to make, not least with Dean Henderson ineligible and John Egan suspended. Phil Jagielka was also struggling with injury before the Newcastle game, so if he doesn't make it then Wilder may be forced into a change of formation. Just don't attempt to ask him about it before the teamsheets are handed in on Wednesday evening.
An insight into the mindset
We knew all about Wilder's demanding nature before today, but the message was reinforced today. "We didn't go to Anfield to face the world champions and hope it was only 3-0," Wilder said. "We didn't play City home and away, who have spent a billion pounds by the way, and tell the boys we had no chance and not to get embarrassed. We went to get a result, and that has to be consistent. It'll be the same against Man United, too. That will be my thought process - and I am sure it will be the same from the players, as well."
Man U motivation?
The last meeting between these sides may have ended in a draw, but it was one of the most memorable games of the season from a United point of view. In front of an electric Bramall Lane, United took apart their younger namesakes and went 2-0 up, before 10 minutes of quality from the Red Devils turned the game around. United were good value for at least the point that Oli McBurnie's late equaliser earned them and although Manchester United have improved their fortunes since then, and got a few key players back, it is a performance that United can take heart from as they look to arrest their mini-slump.
Prove 'em wrong
The fall-out from United's defeat at Newcastle on social media and fan forums has been almost biblical, with some fans writing off almost every player and some, even more remarkably, appearing to question a manager that has taken United from 11th in League One to seventh in the Premier League in less than four years. Wilder referenced supporter opinions a couple of times in his press conference and I would bet a pound to a penny that United's players will walk at Old Trafford on Wednesday with some of the most unflattering comments in their minds. With the added message: Go and prove them wrong.
They have previous
If there's one thing this United squad excels at, it's bouncing back from disappointment. They were battered 3-0 at Middlesbrough early last season, and recovered to win promotion with an excellent away record. Shipping three goals in the last 10 minutes at Aston Villa sparked a run of wins - and clean sheets - that propelled them towards the Premier League. They have lost three times on the road all season and back-to-back defeats recently have been as rare as hen's teeth. As Ollie Norwood said in his press conference today, things are easier when the team is winning games. When it isn't, then it's time to roll up the sleeves and scrap - and that's something this side have proven they don't mind doing.
These players care
Before Ollie Norwood even spoke after taking his place in front of United's media laptop, you could tell that defeat at Newcastle was not out of his system. A sharp, intelligent man and a good talker with the Press, Norwood seemed visibly down and the normal bounce in his voice wasn't there. He won't be the only one feeling like that this morning, because this is a group of players who care deeply about the club's fortunes. They will be like wounded animals - something that Wilder himself admitted today that he actually doesn't mind - and will be desperate to put things right as soon as they can.
Respect, not fear
Another hallmark of United's play this season. They respect the players that they come up against, and their undoubted quality, but they do not fear them. Norwood and Co. could come up against Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes at Old Trafford but the United midfielder said: "We can't look at them and be starstruck. We'll be respectful of them, but if we get a result then we go level with them. We don't like losing matches, it's not a feeling we're used to and it hurts us. We have a responsibility to try and put it right, and finish the season well."