The similarities - and the big difference - between Sheffield United and Aston Villa

They both have supporters orchestrating events from the dug-out. Their respective captains, Billy Sharp and Jack Grealish, are also lifelong fans.

Friday, 13th December 2019, 5:15 pm

But there are precious few other similarities between Sheffield United and Aston Villa, as the players they are being linked with ahead of next month’s transfer window confirms.

While the majority of Chris Wilder’s business is expected to be in the loan market, as he attempts to squeeze the most out of a relatively modest budget, his opposite number Dean Smith is, according to many media outlets, monitoring Pedro’s situation at Chelsea.

Even if those reports are the result of a carefully placed leak, it speaks volumes about the respective financial might of these two newly promoted clubs that Villa Park, not Bramall Lane, is regarded as a more believable destination by anyone hoping to advertise the Spaniard’s availability.

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Which makes it all the more impressive that, as they prepare to renew their rivalry in the Premier League tomorrow, United are eighth and the visitors 17th.

“I always think there can be a bit of snobbery when it comes to recruitment,” Wilder, who has built his reputation on unearthing previously undiscovered gems, said.

“A lot of the time, you get the impression that people won’t look at people who are lower down the divisions.

“But what a lot of our lads have done is show that there’s real talent down there.

Aston Villa, who face Sheffield United at Bramall Lane this weekend, have been linked with Chelsea attacker Pedro: Nick Potts/PA Wire

“And that, if you work hard and apply yourself, then you put yourself in a position to go on and achieve things.”

Speaking ahead of United’s meeting with Villa, Wilder was keen to ensure his comments should not be interpreted as a dig at the opposition.

“You deal with what you’ve got,” the 52-year-old said, before praising Smith’s record.

“He’s done brilliant, record-breaking runs and getting them up. We know each other and I really respect Dean.”

Chris Wilder and Billy Sharp celebrate Sheffield United's promotion from the Championship to the Premier League: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

But Wilder and Daniel Farke, who led Norwich City to the Championship title last term, could be forgiven for casting the odd envious glance in the 48-year-old’s direction as he finalises his list of targets.

Villa’s executive chairman is the world’s fourth richest African.

Which, when you consider his fellow investor and shareholder is also a billionaire, ensures Smith has the luxury of completing acquisitions Wilder and Farke can only dream about.

After the chaotic reign of Tony Xia, Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens have used their wealth to help Villa recruit and retain a wealth of talent. Grealish, despite being courted by Tottenham Hotspur, remained in situ and helped guide them through the play-offs.

Aston Villa's manager Dean Smith gives instructions to Jack Grealish: Mike Egerton/PA Wire.

Wesley, Tyrone Mings and Douglas Costa joined him in the Midlands following that Wembley triumph. United also invested, with Lys Mousset and Oli McBurnie among those snared after Wilder steered them to second-place.

The two most expensive purchases in their employers’ history, they still cost a combined £27m less than Villa’s three headline signings.

Despite the difference in resources, Smith and Wilder have constructed attack-minded squads which the latter believes should guarantee their teams’ first skirmish since last term’s 3-3- draw at Villa Park should be another “crackerjack”.

“I can’t decide how other people play,” Wilder said.

“It takes two to dance. But Villa have got a lot of attacking players so I should imagine they’ll set up, look to dominate the ball and try to drive us back.

“They might, of course, take a different approach.

“That sounds like I’m being awkward if people try and do things another way against us but it’s not. I respect however anyone wants to play because there’s not one way to do football. Far from it.”

United have won three and drawn five of their last nine outings after beating City last weekend.

Former Everton, Manchester City and Sunderland midfielder Jack Rodwell is training at the Steelphalt Academy as he attempts to earn a permanent contract but will not be considered for selection against a Villa outfit without a win in three.

Mo Besic could start following an impressive second-half cameo at Carrow Road, while Ben Osborn, Luke Freeman and Ravel Morrison have been placed on standby as John Lundstram, George Baldock and John Fleck teeter on the verge of suspension.

“There were a few tired bodies down there,” Wilder said, reflecting upon United’s display in Norfolk.

“But recovery is everything at this level and they weren’t prepared to let that one slip.”