'Simple as that' - Chris Wilder pays Liverpool the ultimate compliment amid blunt Darwin Nunez claim
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Chris Wilder reckons Liverpool are one of the best teams in Europe as his second rein as Sheffield United manager got off to a losing start.
Wilder returned to Bramall Lane earlier this week following the sacking of Paul Heckingbottom. Certainly, the ex-Middlesbrough chief has his work cut out to keep the Blades in the Premier League. They are in 20th position and four points adrift of safety.
United put in a spirited performance but succumbed to a 2-0 loss at the hands of Liverpool. Jurgen Klopp's men were far from their best but Virgil van Dijk opened the scoring for the Reds in the 37th minute before Dominik Szoboszlai confirmed the triumph in stoppage-time to move the Reds back within two points of leaders Arsenal.
Wilder was encouraged by what he saw from United, who have won just once in the league all season and was disappointed they didn't pick up a draw. Speaking at his post-match press conference, he said: "From a defensive point of view, we were brave. It allowed our midfield players to get up the pitch and make contact and our front players to go and press. If the distances are big and are sat on the edge of the box, you're not going to be able to do it and you get picked off.
"We're playing Liverpool. We're not playing a mug side, we're playing European elite, not just Premier League elite, with unbelievable players and we wanted to make it an uncomfortable night for them. They will go away and Liverpool supporters, everyone connected to the team and the manager will be delighted with the result and to get three points. I'm a touch disappointed we didn't get something out of the game."
Wilder was adamant that United should have had to equalise from the penalty spot in the second half when Ibrahima Konate challenged James McAtee inside Liverpool's box. The Blades chief then thought Darwin Nunez fouled Jayden Bogle to win the ball back before setting up Szoboszlai for the Reds' second goal.
Wilder believes that referee Simon Hooper had a 'poor night'. He added: "In any part of the pitch, it's a foul. If a centre-half pushes a centre-forward or a midfield player pushes a midfield player, with two hands and he goes down, off balance... it's not up to him to stay on his feet. He's pushed him in the box with two hands. It's a penalty. Simple as that.
"I was more disappointed with the tackle by the centre-forward on Jayden Bogle. Twenty-five years ago if I was playing people would say it was a decent tackle, where you take the ball and take the man. He's wrapped his leg right around Jayden and it's resulted in the second goal.
"I understand the second goal, I'm not a manager who's going to sit back. We took it deep and we opened up in the last 10 minutes. We made substitutions, changed the formation late on and we knew it was going to go to that. The boys found a fabulous finish. But I think it's a foul, I think there's a foul leading up to that, where he jumps into Jack Robinson, and it's a foul. I think it's another poor night by the referee if I'm honest. It's not rose-tinted glasses; that's what I've seen."