Sheffield United look to continue their push for Europe
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder has appeared to acknowledge his team has now set its sights on qualifying for Europe next season, after moving to within touching distance of the Premier League’s top four.
United enter their mid-season break only two points behind Chelsea, who occupy the final Champions League berth, having won all three of their outings since being beaten by Manchester City last month.
Although United had effectively secured their top-flight status for another year long before Sunday’s victory over AFC Bournemouth, Wilder insisted: “I’m not a ‘comfortable’ manager and this isn’t a ‘comfortable’ team.
“We want more. There’s a desire to keep improving. There’s some big matches coming up and we want to keep driving it forward, keep getting better and getting as many points as we can.”
Although Wilder refused to explicitly mention the possibility of securing a place in the Europa League - or remarkably, given that they were only promoted last season, the Champions League qualifying rounds - his comments confirmed United are no longer content with simply securing survival.
The arrival of Sander Berge, for a club record fee of £22m during last month’s transfer window, coupled with moves for the likes of Panos Retsos and Richairo Zivkovic, previously of Bayer Leverkusen and Ajax respectively, confirmed the scale of their ambition.
Retsos and his fellow loanee Zivkovic, who joined from Changchun Yatai, could make their debuts when Brighton and Hove Albion visit Bramall Lane on February 22.
“We had a big game (against Bournemouth) and were able to come through that,” Wilder said, after watching goals from Billy Sharp and John Lundstram cancel-out Callum Wilson’s opener for the visitors.
“Even though they’re not going as well as they’d probably like right now, look at the players Eddie (Howe, the Bournemouth manager) has got. Look at the job they’ve done to get to the Premier League and then stay there. They are a very dangerous side and we came through, we found a way to win.
“That’s important because it shows the desire of the group to come through.”