Last weekend, after watching his team overcome Reading, Chris Wilder revealed he sensed they would produce another commanding performance long before a ball had even been kicked.
“I could see it in their eyes,” the Sheffield United manager said. “You could just tell the lads were ready to step things up another level.”
Despite admitting there will be no guarantees during Friday’s game against Leeds, Wilder explained coaching staff have spotted the same encouraging signs since United began preparing for their televised encounter at Elland Road.
“There’s always selection issues because players want to play,” he said. “And I’m delighted with that. The players are raising their levels, they are doing it themselves.
“Okay, playing at Shirecliffe on a wet Wednesday morning is different to a full-house at Leeds on a Friday night in front of the television cameras. But they are still doing it.”
United enter the game third in the table and knowing that another victory would see them move top of the Championship table. Thomas Christiansen’s side are fourth after beating fellow promotion hopefuls Bristol City four days ago. But it was the Dane’s team selection for yesterday’s Carabao Cup tie against Leicester City which Wilder, who attended the fixture, believes speaks volumes about Leeds’ targets this term.
“That was a fantastic win by Leeds over Bristol City because look what they, City, did to Crystal Palace in the Carabao Cup,” he said. “It doesn’t come any bigger than this. If you read the comments of their manager, and not in an arrogant way, they are geared up for promotion.
“They made 10 changes despite having a chance of getting into the quarter-finals. I thought they might have had a stronger team out there but it shows what their priority is.”
Although some of his counterparts have recently argued the division has yet to take shape, Wilder added: “Any manager who wants to get off to a slow start is lying, they aren’t telling you the truth. They only ones who don’t want to be in our position are the two clubs above us.”
With United scheduled to visit Queens Park Rangers early next week, Wilder has also reserved the right to make changes. Especially, he admitted this morning, after noting the trend for opponents to tweak their tactics for meetings with his squad.
The return of Richard Stearman and Caolan Lavery from injury have also provided United with a greater degree of tactical flexibility.
“Stearman and Lavery are okay,” he said. “Everyone other than Ched (Evans) and Kieron (Freeman) is back out on the grass and training at full tilt.”