Chris Wilder refuses to 'moan and groan' as Sheffield United hunt for Premier League boost against Chelsea

The Blades manager guided his team to a top-half finish last season but has seen them pick up just one point from seven games so far this campaign

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The calendar has pitted Sheffield United against Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea, the three sides Chris Wilder regards as the best in England, on three successive Saturdays.

His beloved club’s worst start to a season for 45 years feels a consequence of the worst injury problems of his time at Bramall Lane. Wilder nevertheless sounded unsympathetic to anyone looking for excuses.

“It is the Premier League,” he said. “There is no point moaning and groaning about it. If you want to moan and groin don’t win promotion or don’t stay up.

"There is no point moaning about the opposition or the fixture list. There is nothing in the players’ body language that suggests they are feeling sorry for themselves.”

Which is perhaps just as well. Saturday's trip to Stamford Bridge brings back memories of United's heady summer, when Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea became a trio of London teams defeated at Bramall Lane. But that emphatic 3-0 victory over Frank Lampard's side remains the Blades' last win.

Since then, Chelsea have given debuts to £220 million ($287.9m) of talent and United have taken a solitary point. “It is a rollercoaster and at the moment it is not going the way we want it to,” Wilder reflected.

Revelations last season, when they finished ninth, United have found it altogether tougher now. Asked if it is time to worry, Wilder jokingly replied: “I got worried about it after the first three minutes against Wolves.” United’s false start to the season entailed going a goal down in three minutes, and two adrift in six, against Wolves in their opening game.

And yet that remains the only game United have lost by more than one goal. The margins can be narrow. Wilder did not go gung-ho against Liverpool and City. He is defensive about his pragmatism.

“There are some quite naïve people out there who think we can go toe-to-toe with the big clubs,” he said. “If we had gone toe-to-toe with Manchester City in the first 15 or 20 minutes, you can possible be three or four goals down.”


Gallery: Sheffield United 0 Manchester City 1


“It is just about getting the balance right. We have shown in the last couple of games we are not going to sit back on the edge of our box and wait to get beaten.” That balance is difficult. Only seven teams have conceded fewer goals but no one has scored fewer than their three, and two of those were penalties.

“From a statistical point of view, all our key stats add up,” Wilder nevertheless said. Yet no one averages fewer shots or shots on target. It has been a tough start for Rhian Brewster, the club record signing in attack.

But the supply line has been disrupted. United were especially effective on the left last season but Jack O’Connell, the overlapping centre-back who was arguably their best player then, is out for the campaign. Wing-back Enda Stevens has moved infield to deputise while midfielder John Fleck has been sidelined.

“Big players have been out,” Wilder said. With first Oliver Norwood and then John Lundstram losing their places, United have lacked continuity.

But visiting Chelsea shows what they can do. Last August’s 2-2 draw, after being 2-0 down, was, according to defender Chris Basham, “the moment we felt we’d arrived in the Premier League.” Now they risk departing it.

“We are all hurting about the position we are in as we feel we can do better,” Wilder said. “We fought right against the odds right the way through to get into this division and to stay in this division and we are going to have to do it again. It is not just going to be given to us.”