Sheffield United boss delivers a message to Middlesbrough and Luton Town

Sheffield United have been warned not to ignore the threat Luton Town pose to their automatic promotion hopes, with manager Paul Heckingbottom insisting his team is in a three-way fight to finish second behind runaway leaders Burnley.
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United are preparing for Friday’s game against Wigan Athletic second in the Championship table and six points clear of third placed Middlesbrough after beating Norwich City last weekend. Although that result, coupled with the sight of Michael Carrick’s side losing to Huddersfield Town, saw the race for Premier League football swing in their favour, Heckingbottom insists it was a significant rather than decisive shift. With Luton behind Middlesbrough on goal difference alone, he also reminded that United’s rivals from Kenilworth Road will “fancy their chances” of gatecrashing the top two despite having played one match more than United.

“Everyone talks about us and Middlesbrough,” Heckingbottom said. “And yes, nothing is decided because, as I’ve been telling you all along, things can quickly change - especially at this stage of the season. But I’ve also been telling you all along that it’s not just us or them. Luton will be quietly confident of doing something, because they’re a really good team going really well. They will fancy their chances, don’t think anything different. I’ve never made it sound as if this is just about us and Middlesbrough.”

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom: Simon Bellis / SportimageSheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom: Simon Bellis / Sportimage
Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom: Simon Bellis / Sportimage
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“It was a big win for us, yes,” he added. “But then every win is a big win, because of how hard you have to work for them. Nothing is decided. I know it sounds boring but, genuinely, there is still plenty of work to do yet and there will be more twists and turns because I don’t reckon for a minute that everyone is going to replicate each other’s results from here on in.”

United have eight league games remaining on their schedule this term, which also includes an FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City. Reaching Wembley, where they will face Pep Guardiola’s side, has complicated United's programme towards the end of the campaign. But Heckingbottom believes the “identity” they have established since his appointment 17 months ago will help them cope with the fast turnaround in fixtures.

“All we can do,” he said, “Is focus on what we do. Nothing else.”