The great English tradition Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder believes Spurs' Jose Mourinho will respect at Bramall Lane

David Pleat likes to tell a story about the time when, midway through his first spell in charge of Luton Town, Liverpool’s coaching staff invited him into their bootroom for drinks following a 3-3 draw at Anfield.

Wednesday, 1st July 2020, 5:05 pm

He thought, rather naively, they were extending a simple courtesy. But when his team was thrashed 6-0 on its return 13 months later, Pleat discovered the real purpose of the exercise had been to pump him for information about the visitors’ tactics and systems whilst being plied with lager. It proved to be a salutary lesson for the starry-eyed young manager, who would later go on to take charge of Tottenham Hotspur.

Tomorrow evening, when Pleat’s former employers face Sheffield United at Bramall Lane, Chris Wilder is looking forward to talking football over a post-match Peroni with his counterpart Jose Mourinho. Having twice lifted the Champions League trophy during an illustrious career which also includes spells with Chelsea, Internazionale and Real Madrid, the Portuguese could prove an invaluable source of knowledge for the 52-year-old as he attempts to reinvigorate United’s season following a frustrating sequence of results. But Wilder also views the practice of sharing a beer with your opposite number as one of English football’s most cherished customs.

“We are all after the same thing, a performance, and we’re all in the same business,” he said. “There are some that don’t entertain it and that’s disappointing. Well, it is for me anyway, because here we always like to invite people in afterwards.

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“We get asked questions as much as we ask questions ourselves. But I think there’s more to it than that. Okay, we want to make things as uncomfortable for the opposition as possible during the game. Afterwards, though, there should always be that respect.”

United prepared for this Premier League fixture ranked ninth in the table - only a point behind Spurs - but in their most difficult run of form since being promoted from the Championship 15 months ago. Unbeaten in six before competition was suspended in March because of the Covid-19 pandemic, they have lost all of their last three outings since returning to action with a goalless draw at Aston Villa a fortnight ago.

Although Wilder has criticised some of his team’s performances of late, particularly during defeats by Newcastle and Manchester United, he was encouraged by aspects of their display against Arsenal last weekend - when only an added time winner from Dani Ceballos prevented them from taking the FA Cup quarter-final to extra-time.

“Steve Round, the Arsenal coach, came in afterwards and we had a natter,” Wilder continued. “Mikel (Arteta, the Arsenal manager) came in for a beer and so did (assistant coach) Freddie Ljungberg - he came in for one too. Everyone was socially distanced but I thought that was class of them."

Jose Mourinho, manager of Tottenham Hotspur, is due to visit Bramall Lane Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Round’s take on events during the tie confirmed Wilder’s suspicions about one of the greatest handicaps United have faced since ‘Project Restart’ was implemented last month. With spectators prohibited from entering stadia, his side must go into battle without the backing of a crowd which, by Wilder’s own admission, have played a major role helping their team climb from the third to the first tier in only three seasons.

“Playing at Bramall Lane helped and even having more of you lads around, even though the restrictions are in place,” Wilder told journalists during his pre-game press conference on Monday. “Getting back to Bramall Lane was good, the familiarity. Even though it wasn’t as good as having the fans there.”

“Steve mentioned that afterwards,” Wilder added. “He brought up the fact it would have been even tougher for them with 30,000 odd United fans with a few beers inside them getting right behind us."

Unlike United, Spurs have benefited from the pause in the schedule. Having lost five and drawn one of their last five assignments before lockdown, they make the journey having taken four points from meetings with Manchester United and West Ham.

Chris Wilder speaking during one of Sheffield United's pre-match media conferences: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Although Spurs’ indifferent results since parting company with Maurcio Pochettino following United’s draw in north London earlier this term have prompted some to suggest Mourinho is no longer ‘The Special One’, Wilder was having none of it when he previewed this contest.

“What am I then? I must be the average one, the very ordinary one,” Wilder joked, referencing United’s troubles of late. “Seriously, everyone gets judged short-term these days. The only time you can make a judgement properly is over the long-term and look at what he’s done. I’m a big fan.”

“I’m sure some people were saying the same thing when Manchester United were rebuilding,” Wilder added. “Spurs have got one of the best strikers around in Harry Kane and one of the best young players around in Dele Alli."

Kane would have missed the game with United had it taken place as scheduled but has now recovered from the hamstring injury he sustained just after Christmas. United are likely to be without Jack O’Connell and John Lundstram, who damaged a shoulder against Arsenal.

Dejected Oli McBurnie reacts following Sheffield United's defeat by Arsenal: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

“There were encouraging signs in that one, as we’ve all talked about,” Wilder said. “I’ve seen players in teams that are not onside and our players are giving everything. They are just suffering from a dip in form and serving up some nice opportunities which Premier League teams are going to take.

“I’m disappointed we’ve slipped a little bit in terms of position, but the players are okay and in a decent enough place.”

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