Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder throws down the gauntlet at Bramall Lane following defeat by Liverpool

Chris Wilder has insisted that Sheffield United must begin laying the groundwork for a promotion challenge next season, after conceding his team appears destined to be relegated from the Premier League.

Monday, 1st March 2021, 6:01 am

Speaking after last night’s defeat by reigning champions Liverpool left them 15 points adrift of safety with only 12 matches remaining, Wilder acknowledged United’s thoughts are now turning towards making an immediate return to the top-flight rather than battling for survival.

Defending his recruitment policy over the past two windows, and against reiterating his belief there must be no fire sale at Bramall Lane when United’s fate is mathematically confirmed, Wilder said: “The lads will learn from this and one the things they’ll learn is that the Premier League is the place to be. Sometimes, though, you have to take a step backwards to move forward.

“We’ve brought in a lot of good young players, and young players who will improve; people like Rhian Brewster, Jayden Bogle, Max Lowe and Oli McBurnie. It’s a decent group and it’s one that can get better from the experience.”

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Despite being United’s record transfer signing, Brewster has struggled to command a regular place in their starting eleven since completing a £23.5m move from Anfield in October. A England under-21 international, he was an unused substitute against his former club, while Norway midfielder Sander Berge was among a string of absentees through injury.

“I understand these are decent fees for Sheffield United ” Wilder, who was prohibited from bolstering the options at his disposal in January, continued. “They’re spread over three or four years and, from my point of view, I’ve brought in £240m to the football club so I think we’ve done okay.

“We’ve had two seasons up here when most people thought we’d only have one. We’ve raised a few quid and need to keep our best players and bring a few in.”

Despite his frustration, Wilder was in phlegmatic mood after watching second half goals from Curtis Jones and Roberto Firmino propel Jurgen Klopp’s team to victory despite Aaron Ramsdale’s heroics between the posts.

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder returns the ball to play during the Premier League match at Bramall Lane, Sheffield: Oli Scarff/PA Wire

The 53-year-old, who has led United from the third to the first tier of English football since being appointed in May 2016, said: “They are better than us. Even though there’s a lot of chat about how they aren’t doing this and that. It’s still Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander Arnold, the best two full-backs in European football. They are still world champions aren’t they? We try and make it competitive. We have to be at the top of our game, which is obviously difficult with what has happened for us. It has to be a perfect storm for us.”

“I looked at the body language of the lads afterwards, in the dressing room,” Wilder added. “I could see they had given me everything. The lads had given everything they’ve got.

"We don’t have the real Premier League experuence of some of the teams. But the boys will learn from this season and what has happened. The challenge has to be to come roaring back.”

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Sheffield United's manager Chris Wilder, left, and Liverpool's manager Jurgen Klopp, center, watch as Liverpool's Mohamed Salah plays the ball during the English Premier League soccer match between Sheffield United and Liverpool at Bramall Lane stadium in Sheffield, England, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021. (Oli Scarff, Pool via AP)
Sheffield United's manager Chris Wilder walks onto the pitch for the English Premier League soccer match between Sheffield United and Liverpool at Bramall Lane stadium in Sheffield, England, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021. (Oli Scarff, Pool via AP)