Sheffield United: It was breathtaking stuff but, as Chris Wilder’s team prepare to lock horns with Bristol City, their thumping of Aston Villa has created a problem

Sheffield United's players celebrate their 4-1 win over Aston Villa
Sheffield United's players celebrate their 4-1 win over Aston Villa

It encapsulated everything that is good about Sheffield United since Chris Wilder's appointment three seasons ago: attractive, attack-minded football laced with attitude which harnessed the passion of the crowd.

Managers are fond of looking forwards rather than backwards. History, unless it serves a purpose, is not really their thing.

But as his team prepares for Saturday's visit to Bristol City, Wilder should break one of his profession's most sacred rules. Because United's victory over Aston Villa, the final match before this month's international break, provided the template for success against opponents who, after experiencing similarly difficult start, have also discovered their form.

"The outcome was great and the way we went about it was too," Wilder said, reflecting on the 4-1 defeat of Steve Bruce's side. "We came out strong, carried it on and the atmosphere in the ground was brilliant. It was hostile and intimidating but in exactly the right way.

"What we've got to do now is remember that and carry it on. Do the same things again, or at least trying to do them, while continuing to strive and improve."

Standing still or resting on their laurels is not an option for United. Lee Johnson, Wilder's opposite number in the south-west, will have pored over the details of their meeting with Villa and watched the DVD on loop as he plots their downfall at Ashton Gate. 

Curiously, so impressive was their team's most recent performance, it has presented Wilder and his staff with a psychological problem too. Tactically, they must look to keep Johnson guessing. But how, without encouraging complacency, do they praise their own players whilst keeping them on their toes?

"You're never going to hear me saying we'll do 'this' or 'that'," Wilder continued. "Yes, we've done well of late and yes, I think we're capable of achieving something. But being capable and actually doing it are completely different things. That's why we've got to carry on, keep driving it forward and demanding more from ourselves. No matter what."

Even more than the result, Wilder should take heart from the fact United's dismantling of Villa came on the back of an equally commanding display at Bolton Wanderers. Having taken maximum points from their last four league games, United are third in the table and within touching distance of the summit. City, meanwhile, completed a Championship hat-trick when they thumped Blackburn Rovers 4-1 nearly a fortnight ago.

"Neither of us got off to flying starts," Wilder admitted. "But we're both coming into this one with confidence and in good nick. There's no days off in this division. You can never guarantee anything apart from the fact that, if you don't give everything, you definitely won't come out on top."