Chris Wilder was lavish with his praise of his team after the defeat at Forest, and it would have been harsh to be anything else, but I think that in this instance he perhaps was a touch too effusive.
Yes, United dominated possession and if the ball had fallen more kindly we could have got a draw, or even a win, but Forest could point to the fact that every time they ventured forward they looked dangerous.
It was two good teams really going for it for 90 minutes and it could have gone either way, but you couldn’t begrudge Forest their win. And as Chris so rightly said, it was played in the right spirit from start to finish – no diving, no excessive time-wasting, no crowding round the referee when a hard tackle went in, and there were a few.
Wilder’s positivity and enthusiasm are rare in modern football, as are his commitment to try to win every game and to keep on attacking even when in front. This attitude was summed up at Hillsborough when United were defending their 4-2 lead by pushing forward, so much so that the two full-backs were up by the corner flag together - in injury time. That’s some way to protect an advantage away from home.
But it’s not only Wilder’s approach to football that endears him to the fans – it’s also that he talks like one of us, because he is one of us. He was on BBC Radio 5Live’s “Sportsweek” programme on the Sunday morning before the derby match. Presenter Gary Richardson asked him what it was like to play in a Sheffield derby, not realising that Wilder in fact had never played in one.
After the interview the broadsheet journalist in the studio (sorry, forgotten who it was!) said, “What a breath of fresh air Chris Wilder is!”
So he is, and after the suffocating football we had to endure from August 2012 to May 2016 under a succession of managers we needed a plentiful supply of fresh air, which Wilder and his team continue to provide in volume.