Sheffield United players are told one thing they simply must get better at to salvage their promotion dream
It was a throwaway comment towards the end of a lengthy interview but Slavisa Jokanovic’s admission that he suspected Sheffield United felt compelled to try and beat Millwall despite being reduced to 10 men early in the second-half provides a clue towards one of the improvements he believes his team must make in order to begin climbing the Championship table.
Although United will look to attack when they visit Barnsley this weekend - the hosts have failed to win a game since mid-August - Jokanovic’s remark, buried deep within a monologue about the red card which will rule Morgan Gibbs-White out of Sunday’s derby, suggests he wants them to improve their match craft. It is a subject he has voluntarily raised before; complaining United immediately chased an equaliser rather than pausing for thought after falling behind during the opening stages of their game against Birmingham City two months ago.
“We needed to be aware and ready,” Jokanovic said, after watching Gary Rowett’s side snatch all three points in the 92nd minute of Tuesday’s contest at Bramall Lane. “We interpreted that we needed to win the game.”
Although some critics will seek to twist Jokanovic’s words, implying he is more bothered about aesthetics than results, the Serb is actually nothing of the sort. What he meant was, having entered added time on level terms despite playing the majority of the second-half with 10 men, that United should have calculated a point would have been a satisfactory return in the circumstances. A draw might not have been what they started the evening craving. But having beaten Stoke City 72 hours earlier, it would have ensured they travelled to Oakwell with a degree of momentum behind them.
Instead, with Gibbs-White suspended, United will make the short journey north looking to recover from a loss without their most creative talent.
“We are in a process,” Jokanovic said. “We have taken steps forward and also back. But what we must do is continue to trust in that process and work the work we are doing whilst also making the necessary improvements in order to move forward.”