Chris Wilder is maybe Sheffield United's greatest manager - but he isn't immune to criticism
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Chris Wilder is maybe Sheffield United's greatest manager - but he isn't immune to criticism

It could legitimately be argued that Chris Wilder is Sheffield United’s greatest ever manager.

In his first four years in charge at Bramall Lane, Wilder took the Blades from bottom of League One to ninth in the Premier League.

Last season’s finish was their highest league position since 1992.

Back then, Dave Bassett was boss – another regarded among the best to ever manage the club.

Like Wilder, Bassett took United from the third tier back to the top flight, actually going one better with back-to-back promotions in the early 1990s.

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A poll in 2017 named the 76-year-old as the greatest ever Blades boss, with Neil Warnock second and John Harris third.

Bassett later said he would be happy if Wilder took his title. Some fans probably think he already has.

Which is why the 53-year-old remains so widely backed by the support base this season.

Unlike their success last term. United are currently rock bottom of the table with just 11 points. They have lost 20 of their 25 league matches following a 1-0 defeat at fellow strugglers Fulham.

With a 14-point gap between the South Yorkshire side and safety, most supporters have accepted their team will be back playing in the Championship in 2021/22.

Yet Wilder retains the backing of the vast majority of them. In an era where managers are sacked for far less, to see most people sticking by him is heartening.

But let’s not be blinkered.

‘Sheffield United’s greatest manager’ isn’t immune to criticism

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After the loss at Craven Cottage, Wilder told BBC Radio Sheffield: “It’s like 75 percent of the Premier League games we’ve been involved in – nothing in it.

“People in the game know the detail of where we’re at as a football club. People will say; ‘it’s Fulham and they’re third bottom’. I think people in the game will know the detail of what’s happening.

“They’ll know we’re playing a team that’s been in the Premier League 15 of the last 20 years and what advantage that gives you over a club that’s been in it three out of the last 20.”

Wilder is correct in pointing out that his team have rarely been truly battered this season. Only six of their 20 defeats have been by more than one goal.

Yet he has also become increasingly defensive as the campaign has gone on.

Rather than playing up to the underdog tag to get results like last term, Wilder is now using it as an excuse.

He has also shot down any criticism of his 3-5-2 system, which has been incredibly successful but now looks dull and sluggish.

The Blades are battling against the odds, but that doesn’t mean Wilder can’t be criticised.

Yet anyone who does on fan forums and social media is shot down very quickly by fellow supporters.

Fans turning on fans

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Social media in particular is hardly known for its nuance and Wilder himself has recently criticised the abuse the club has received.

Which he is right to do. But he’s also currently on course to achieve one of the worst points totals in Premier League history.

That deserves criticism.

It’s OK to think Wilder is the greatest manager in the club’s history and remains the right man for the job, but also that it’s not been good enough this season.

And ultimately, the blame for that lies at the feet of one man.

Wilder has received plenty of plaudits during his time at Bramall Lane. Now it’s time to take some criticism with a little more grace.

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