Sheffield United are in their "best shape" for years

Sheffield United are in their best shape for years, manager Chris Wilder has insisted, as his squad continues its challenge for a place in Europe next term.

Wednesday, 5th February 2020, 6:00 am

With only 13 matches of the Premier League remaining, United began preparing for Sunday’s visit of AFC Bournemouth ranked sixth in the table; only a point behind fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur and trailing Chelsea, who occupy the final Champions League berth, by a further four.

After breaking the club’s transfer record last weekend - Sander Berge, a £22m signing from Genk, joining Panos Retsos, Richairo Zivkovic, Jack Rodwell and Jack Robinson at Bramall Lane during the recent window - Wilder is convinced his side can continue to churn-out results during the second half of the campaign.

“We are in a great place as a football club,” he said. “Even when we’re not at our best, we give ourselves the possibility of getting a result because of the honesty these lads have got.”

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“But the key is not to pay yourself on the back the moment,” Wilder continued. “We’re going to enjoy our good results, definitely. But we’re also looking to the next one and the one after that.”

United will enter their meeting with Eddie Howe’s side beaten only once in their last six outings; a 1-0 defeat to reigning champions Manchester City last month.

Saturday’s win over Crystal Palace was their fourth in all competitions since losing to runaway leaders Liverpool on January 2.

Retsos and Zivkovic, signed from Bayer Leverkusen and Changchun Yatai respectively, could both make their debuts against Bournemouth after the paperwork relating to their loans was processed too late for them to feature at Selhurst Park.

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder (right) celebrates with Oliver McBurnie after the final whistle during the Premier League match at Selhurst Park, London: Tess Derry/PA Wire.

Berge, however, did start the match after completing his switch from Genk 24 hours earlier.

“I’m delighted with how the boys are doing but we’ve got to keep driving it on,” Wilder said. “If you stand still or start thinking you’ve cracked it then this business has a habit of giving you a wake-up call.

“So you’ve got to keep striving to get better. It’s as simple as that.”