'This lad will prove you all wrong' - Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder gives one of his under-fire players a boost ahead of key Premier League clash
Sheffield United’s Oli McBurnie has been backed to overcome his difficulties in front of goal, with manager Chris Wilder reminding that criticism and scrutiny “comes with the territory” for Premier League centre-forwards.
McBurnie enters Sunday’s game against Leicester City having failed to find the back of the net this season, despite featuring in all of United’s 10 outings so far.
With his barren run for both club and country stretching back to July, when the Scotland international was on target during a 3-0 win over Chelsea, the pressure on McBurnie’s shoulders has intensified in recent weeks following misses during the defeats by West Ham and West Bromwich Albion.
Although Wilder accepts United must become more clinical to stand a chance of retaining top-flight status, he has told McBurnie that even the greatest strikers in history go through barren runs during their careers.
“Oli is okay,” Wilder said. “It’s the life and times of a centre-forward in the Premier League.
“That’s why these boys play in that position, because of the glory it receives and attracts. But there’s also the criticism when things don’t go well, and they know that - they deal with it because it comes with the territory.”
“What I like about Oli, and I’m talking about right now, is that he keeps putting himself into the right positions and showing that desire to get into the right positions even though he knows there’s a spotlight on him. That, for me, tells you something about his bravery and his character. It tells you that he cares and what type of person he is.”
After losing all of their matches barring October’s clash with Fulham, United have prepared for City’s visit at the bottom of the table and knowing that another defeat could leave them nine points from safety following the latest round of matches.
David McGoldrick and captain Billy Sharp, who failed to make the bench against both West Brom and David Moyes’ side, are the only United forwards to score this term. But Wilder insisted those questioning the capability of his frontline should also consider the age and experience of its members.
Although Sharp and McGoldrick are both in their thirties, Lys Mousset, aged 24, is the next oldest member of United’s attack having been born in February 1996; four months before McBurnie. As the club attempts to establish itself at the highest level, less than five years after spending six in League One, Wilder must cultivate centre-forwards rather than sign proven ones.
“Oli had a decent first season in the Premier League,” Wilder said. “He’s a good player and a strong, determined character. He’ll come out of this on the other side.”
“We know we need to do it now,” he added. “But when you look at the group we’ve got, and how we expect them to improve and get better with experience, which they will, I also think we’#re well set for the future because of the age these lads are and the ability we know they’ve got.”