Sheffield United Have Been Dire Post-Lockdown But Perspective Is Needed

"I am sick and tired of people talking about Europe, it’s about what’s happening in the present."

So, going off the above, it might be best not to ask Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder about Champions League qualification. After all, nobody took that line of questioning to him before the season had started.

If anything, the questions would have centred around whether Wilder believed the Blades could stay in the Premier League, given they went back down to the second tier on the previous two occasions they've reached the current iteration of the top flight.

Billy Sharp looking disconsolate during the Newcastle defeat

Instead, it's much more appropriate to talk about what's happening in the present - and what is currently going on in Sheffield is worrying. Not because the Blades may miss out on European qualification or slide dramatically down the table, but because they've played pretty badly in their first two games since the Premier League restarted.

Yes, they were wrongly denied a goal in the 0-0 draw with Aston Villa. Yes, it seems pretty strange to scorn a promoted club when they've defied all expectations and currently sit seventh in England's top flight.

But Sunday's 3-0 defeat at Newcastle was a real wake-up call, and quite a striking one at that.

Why? Well, because they lost 3-0. Against a Newcastle side that had scored three goals in a league game just once this season before the weekend.

Wilder has distanced his side from talk of Champions League qualification

What doesn't help is that Wilder has a number of his more influential players absent for Wednesday's game against Manchester United, where the visiting side could move ahead of the Red Devils and into fifth with a win. Dean Henderson is ineligible, John Egan was sent off against the Magpies, and there remain doubts over the fitness of Jack O'Connell and David McGoldrick.

Without wanting to use the 'well drilled' stick to beat the Blades with, that's exactly what they are. And when that defensive cohesion is left on the shelf for three months as the world deals with a pandemic, it's understandable that performance levels might drop.

But Sheffield United is not a club without ambition. That much was shown when they signed Sander Berge, a midfielder who was linked with a whole host of elite European clubs, back in January.

What does remain a problem is their lack of an obvious goalscorer up front.

Sheffield United's strikers have struggled for consistency

Their current options - Oli McBurnie, McGoldrick, Lys Mousset and Billy Sharp - have managed just 12 Premier League goals between them this season, and that's out of a total of 30. John Lundstram and John Fleck are the main two chipping in, with the pair sat on four and five strikes respectively.

Each striker remains a decent presser, but United have not used the pitch as effectively in their last two games as opposed to pre-lockdown fixtures. Their play-making centre backs have not had as much joy, and neither George Baldock nor Enda Stevens have looked sharp down the flanks. In fact, Stevens made a shocking howler against Newcastle, completely missing the ball to allow Allan Saint-Maximin the first goal of the day.

Wednesday night kickstarts a tough run of fixtures for the Blades. It's United at Old Trafford first before they host Arsenal and Tottenham - they also still have to face Wolves, Chelsea, Leicester and Everton before the season's up.

The Blades have a tough run-in

Evidently, there should be little to worry about in the grand scheme of things for Blades fans. The club has only won a top flight title once, and that was back in 1897/98, so this season will go down as one of their best ever.

But there can be no denying that the Sheffield United team we've seen seen the Premier League restarted has not been the same slick, organised and efficient side fans and neutrals enjoyed previously. It's not a disaster, but the rot must stop before it properly sets in.

Source : 90min