Chris Wilder, the Sheffield United manager, insisted his players had nothing to be ashamed of after losing to Fulham last night, claiming the experience of facing Slavisa Jokanovic’s side could actually make them an even more dangerous proposition as the race for a top six finish enters its decisive phase.
Two first-half goals from Aleksander Mitrovic and a Tom Cairney effort after the break saw Fulham record their ninth successive home win and remain only five points behind the automatic promotion places with 11 games remaining.
Although United dropped to ninth ahead of Saturday’s trip to Ipswich Town, Wilder was in upbeat mood after assessing the visitors’ performance against opponents he described as being among the best in the Championship.
“Sometimes you’ve just got to take your medicine and give credit to who you’ve come up against,” he said.
“Obviously we wish we’d have swallowed it slightly differently but the way they went about their work, the way they kept on going right until the end, means the lads can come away with their heads held high.
“It’s not being negative, it’s not being defeatist but we’ve got to recognise what we were up against there; Premier League footballers, experienced Championship footballers, who have beaten Wolves, Aston Villa and Derby County in recent weeks.
“So long as we learn the biggest lesson, that you’ve got to take your chances against top sides like that when they come your way, then we can become all the better for it. I’ve told them in that dressing room that, with all due respect, I’d much rather be involved in these matches than some of the others we’ve been involved in last season and for the past couple of years.”
Wilder, who led United to the League One title last term, acknowledged Mitrovic, the Serbia centre-forward Fulham recently signed on loan from Newcastle, had highlighted the difference between those clubs challenging for top two places and those hoping to reach the play-offs.
“He’s a Premier League player,” Wilder, whose side are three points behind sixth-placed Middlesbrough, said. “Fulham have gone and got him and well done to them for that. Mitrovic should be playing in the Premier League, though, if not for Newcastle then someone else.”