Sheffield United: Claims about Fulham correctly dismissed by rival managers as Blades make play-offs

Claims that Fulham were not fully focused during their 4-0 defeat at Bramall Lane have been disputed by both Paul Heckingbottom and visiting manager Marco Silva.

Sunday, 8th May 2022, 8:32 am
Updated Monday, 9th May 2022, 7:54 am

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Sheffield United v Fulham: Blades thrash the champions to set-up Nottingham Fore...

Already assured of automatic promotion and also the Championship title, the sight of United thrashing the best team in the competition inevitably prompted suggestions that Fulham had not taken the match seriously.

After watching his side book their place in the end of season play-offs, Heckingbottom immediately moved to shut down talk the Londoners had lacked their usual edge; insisting nothing should detract from the quality of United’s performance. Despite admitting he was “disappointed” with Fulham’s display, Silva later endorsed the 44-year-old’s view of the game.

Paul Heckingbottom reflects on Sheffield United's win over Fulham: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

“The main thing was getting there,” Heckingbottom said. “We wanted to get in (to the top six) and we wanted to do it our way. To do that, we needed to show total concentration and commitment.

“Fulham showed their quality in the first 10 minutes. Any ideas that they had come here and didn’t have any interest in winning, those were quickly put to bed.”

The evidence

Sheffield United's Iliman Ndiaye (right) celebrates scoring their side's second goal of the game with team-mate Morgan Gibbs-White during the Sky Bet Championship match at Bramall Lane, Sheffield: Danny Lawson/PA Wire.

As Heckingbottom admitted, United appeared destined for a difficult afternoon during the opening exchanges of the contest. But once Morgan Gibbs-White had fired them in front early on, their seized the match by the scruff of the neck and never let go - suffocating Fulham with their aggression and sense of purpose. Iliman Ndiaye and Sander Berge also pounced before the break before Enda Stevens struck during the second period.

“We celebrated going up,” Silva said, before Heckingbottom also confirmed he would allow United’s squad to mark their achievement before preparing for Saturday’s semi-final first-leg against Nottingham Forest. “But we also made sure we prepared properly.

“To begin with, I thought we were better. But then we weren’t good enough with the ball or as aggressive as them. They deserved it. There are no excuses.”

The prediction

After hosting Steve Cooper’s men this weekend - “It’s going to be tough. We know them well and they know us well,” said Heckingbottom, noting that the club’s last two meetings have finished all square - United travel to the City Ground three days later.

“We took risks,” he added. “We turned it into the type of game we wanted.”