Some Sheffield United fans are beginning to doubt manager Chris Wilder after a disappointing start to the season.
The Blades have lost all three of their Premier League matches so far. They are the only team in the top four divisions of English football not to score a league goal in 2020/21.
It leaves United in the relegation zone, with their poor form compounded by a Carabao Cup exit after a penalty shootout defeat to Burnley.
There are some supporters questioning whether Wilder is even the right man for the job anymore. Which seems bizarre considering the club has enjoyed two promotions and a ninth place finish in the top flight during the 53-year-old’s four years in charge.
These people are admittedly in the minority, but there is growing concern that the upward trajectory under Wilder has started its downturn.
Why doubters among Sheffield United fans have short memories
There was a similar feeling of discontent at Bramall Lane in Wilder’s first campaign as boss. The Blades lost three of their first four league fixtures and were bottom of the League One table with a single point.
Wilder changed his formation, laying the foundations for what would become his famous overlapping centre-back system. It was the blueprint for the success he would achieve over the next four years.
That term they won the title with 100 points, ending a six-year stay in the third tier in the process. Two years later they finished second in the Championship and returned to the Premier League for the first time in 12 years.
Yet while Wilder hit on a style that suited his players and stuck with it, it’s not as if he hasn’t adapted. Their return to the top flight resulted in a tweak, with a 3-4-1-2 formation becoming a 3-5-2. With United up against superior opposition, Wilder opted for the safety of a three-man midfield and dropped his number 10.
It worked, with the South Yorkshire club in the running for Europe for much of 2019/20. They finished with the fourth best defensive record in the division.
Problems this season
On the face of it, three straight losses is a concern. Yet beyond an opening six minutes of calamity in their first fixture against Wolverhampton Wanderers, there have been plenty of positives.
Wolves scored twice during that time to kill the game off, but they looked solid as the 90 minutes progressed. The sending off of John Egan after 12 minutes against Aston Villa next time out eventually cost them in a 1-0 defeat. But they more than matched their opponents, even with 10 men.
Against Leeds United at the weekend, they looked stronger yet again. John Lundstram and George Baldock were denied by fantastic saves, before Patrick Bamford snatched a late winner.
In both the Villa and Leeds losses, the result could easily have gone the other way.
A lack of goals is certainly a problem, but Wilder is looking to address that with the expected arrival of Rhian Brewster from Liverpool.
The Blades boss has proven doubters wrong throughout his managerial career. Those who don’t think he can do it again now greatly underestimate him.