Sheffield United: Seething Slavisa Jokanovic hands his players a warning

Sheffield United manager Slavisa Jokanovic has insisted he still believes in his players, despite admitting they must do more to “defend” the club’s “crest” following their abject display against Blackburn Rovers.

Monday, 8th November 2021, 5:00 am

Against opponents thrashed 7-0 by Fulham only three days earlier, United produced a performance so lacking in intensity it was described as “dirty” by the Serb afterwards - despite taking a second minute lead courtesy of Rhian Brewster’s first league goal since completing a £23.5m move from Liverpool 13 months ago.

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Although Jokanovic was left seething by the quality of the visitors’ work at Ewood Park, where Ben Brereton Diaz and Ian Poveda were both on target for Rovers after Reda Khadra has equalised, he told The Star: “I repeat, I came here because I wanted to work with these players. I trust they can do better and show better. They send me feedback that they trust in what we are trying to do too.

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Sheffield United manager Slavisa Jokanovic says his players must do more to defend the club: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

“I can not complain about how they work in general but we make one step forward and then two steps backwards here. This is not a nice time for anyone interested in trying to defend the Sheffield United crest.”

“First of all, all of the people here know what responsibility is,” continued Jokanovic, who guided Watford and Fulham to promotion before being appointed in May. “I take the responsibility. But you must also enjoy being a Sheffield United player. You must show that effort. There is a minimum level.

“We played against a team that was stronger and quicker than mine. I want to believe it is not true, but we must show that we can be at a different level and make it untrue.”

Sheffield United lacked intensity and fight after Blackburn Rovers had equalised at Ewood Park: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

Relegated from the Premier League last season, United outlined their ambition to make an immediate return to the top-flight at the beginning of the campaign. But after showing signs of progress in recent weeks, the manner of Saturday’s capitulation raises more questions about the squad’s ability to achieve that aim unless there is a change in either attitude or personnel.

“I believe we can be fighting for the top six,” Jokanovic said. “We are a strong team on paper. But on another side, on our real situation, we need to be more serious, show more responsibility and show better work. We must show more respect for our work and for ourselves and also for the team.”

Speaking before the trip to Lancashire, Jokanovic admitted he wants to sign two wingers and a holding midfielder during the January transfer window after seeing deals for Sampdoria’s Ronaldo Vieira and Alex Collado collapse before the August deadline. Although a move for Vieira will not be resurrected after United’s medical team detected he was suffering from an injury and underlying health condition nearly a fortnight after travelling to England to complete his Covid-19 quarantine protocols, Collado is still thought to interest the Serb and his coaching staff.

“Of course, we make some mistakes within the organisation,” Jokanovic said, referring to United’s position in the table. “But we need to do some of this work. I want to believe and I still believe in these players. But yes, we know we must improve.”