Sheffield United are handed an ultimatum ahead of this weekend's match at Bramall Lane
Sheffield United’s players have been told that a repeat of Sunday’s first-half performance at Tottenham Hotspur, which laid the foundations for their second heaviest defeat of what had already been a wretched season, will prompt a furious response from the club’s coaching staff following this weekend’s game against Crystal Palace.
Despite being reminded they now have the freedom to express themselves after their relegation was confirmed last month, United were passive for long periods of the contest in north London.
With Roy Hodgson’s side next on the agenda at Bramall Lane, caretaker manager Paul Heckingbotrom has warned a similarly subdued display will not be tolerated on Saturday afternoon.
“We were on the back foot, we weren’t on the front foot,” he said. “We know what these players are capable of when they are positive and aggressive.
“If you aren’t either of those things against good players, against world class players at this level, then there’s only one thing that’s going to happen.”
After being confirmed as a contender for the role on a permanent basis following United’s win over Brighton and Hove Albion, events in the capital dealt a blow to Heckingbottom’s hopes of persuading people he is the right man to replace Chris Wilder on a permanent basis. Not in the boardroom, where his candidacy, amid concerns Oostende’s Alexander Blessin is unlikely to receive a work permit, enjoys several high profile supporters. But on the terraces, where United supporters could return later this month for the first time since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The turnover must have been about 50 per cent or 60 per cent of the time before we even made two passes,” Heckingbottom lamented, demanding greater attention to detail when Palace make the journey north. “That wasn’t good enough and we can do better, no question, because we’ve seen it.”
"We’ve got to be on the front foot and more aggressive, because if we’re not then we know what’s going to happen,” he added. “So we have to respond in the next game, the one that’s coming up the weekend. We know what we have to do.”