The unusual step Sheffield United have taken to help them prepare for Sunday's FA Cup quarter-final against Arsenal
Sheffield United’s players have been granted time off ahead of their FA Cup tie against Arsenal, as coaching staff search for the reasons behind a series of subdued displays which have left them without a win since English football returned to action earlier this month.
Accepting his team looked mentally and physically fatigued during Wednesday’s defeat by Manchester United - their second 3-0 loss in a row after losing by the same scoreline at Newcastle last weekend - Chris Wilder revealed he immediately cancelled two training sessions on the journey home from Old Trafford.
Although his decision means United’s preparations for Sunday’s quarter-final will be limited, Wilder said: “We have given them time to clear their heads, and I think that was important. Because they looked quite tired physically and from a mentality point of view, when you are not playing well, there is a drain too. Then, as always, it’s come in and look forward to the next challenge.”
Wilder bemoaned the quick turnaround in fixtures following events in the North-West, where an Anthony Martial hat-trick saw United fall five points behind Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s fifth-placed side with seven Premier League matches remaining. Unbeaten in six before the Covid-19 pandemic forced the fixture competition to be suspended in March, United drew with Aston Villa before being swept aside during the second-half of a disappointing showing at St James’ Park.
“I’ve given them a couple of days off to recover at home,” Wilder continued. “They are honest professionals, so they will do what they need to do away from the training ground.
“I don’t usually do that but we needed to change something. I’ll be clear in my message to them on the lead up to Arsenal.”
The game against the Londoners, United’s first on home soil for more than three months, had sold-out before it was announced matches must take place behind closed doors for the foreseeable future.
“We altered the preparation because I feel we had to,” Wilder said. “It will be good to be back at home, even though the incredible crowd can’t help us."