5 key factors in the Blades promotion success

The Blades have secured promotion to the top flight for the first time in 12 years. Here is a look at five factors that have helped propel the Blades to the Premier League.

Sheffield Core

It’s clear from footage of fans celebrating this weekend’s promotion just how much the achievement has meant to the Blade’s local heroes.

Stockbridge born Chris Wilder returned his boyhood club back in 2016 and has since guided the club from League One to the Premier League in three seasons.

Wilder first played for United in 1986, making 93 appearances in the six years that followed. The defender spent the bulk of the nineties with Rotherham, Notts County and Bradford but returned to the Blades in 1998-1999.

His third spell at the club has been his best yet. Wilder’s South Yorkshire roots have galvanised the fan base and his blatant passion for the club appears to have rubbed off on the players at the club.

His 54% win record is the best of any permanent manager in the club’s history.

It is also worth noting that another Sheffield-born manager, Neil Warnock, was at the helm the last time the Blades got promoted to the Premier League in 2006.

Consolidating Wilder’s native influence is captain Billy Sharp. Also in his third spell at Bramall Lane, the striker has been instrumental in the Blade’s recent success. With 23 goals this season, Sharp is United’s top marksmen, while 30 goals for the Blade’s in 2016/17 made him League One’s top scorer as United were crowned league champions.

Signing Oliver Norwood

Signing Oliver Norwood is arguably the best thing you can do if you’re a Championship club looking to gain promotion to the Premier League.

Norwood has gained promotion from the Championship in each of the last three seasons, first with Brighton, then Fulham and now with United.

The Blades fought off competition from other Championship clubs to sign the midfielder on loan from Brighton during the summer.

Norwood’s signing was made permanent in January. It was 1.2 million well spent – Norwood has scored three goals and made eight assists for the Blades this year. Maybe next year he’ll finally get a chance to show his ability in the top flight.

3-4-1-2

Wilder introduced the 3-4-1-2 formation back in League One. Three years on, United are now a well-oiled machine.

The formation is centred on the ability of the two wide centre backs of the back three to overload in attack.

Complementing United’s bullying and direct style of play, the formation allows wing-backs Stevens and Baldock the freedom to concentrate on bombarding the opposition box with crosses for a robust front two of Sharp and McGoldrick.

Solid defence

The Blade’s defence has been the best in the Championship this season, shipping just 39 goals.

Summer signing Dean Henderson has been vital to the side’s defensive steel. The 22-year-old goalkeeper who is signed on loan from Manchester United has kept 20 clean sheets this season – the league’s best.

Despite securing a top two finish, United’s goal scoring is only the fourth best in the league with Norwich, Villa and West Brom all scoring more, highlighting the importance of the Blade’s solid back line.

Leeds

For all United’s brilliance this season something has to be said for the way Leeds have thrown away their automatic promotion chances. Leeds’ failure to win their last three games with back-to-back defeats to Wigan and Brentford and then a draw with Villa presented the Blades with a fantastic opportunity to return to the Premier League. They duly obliged with three wins on the bounce.