Nigel Adkins, the Sheffield United manager, has urged his players to use their visit to Old Trafford this weekend to spur them on to greater heights between now and the end of season.
Adkins acknowledged following Saturday’s defeat by Peterborough that reaching the Championship, not repeating 2014’s march into the FA Cup semi-finals, is his primary objective at Bramall Lane.
But, speaking ahead of the third round tie against Manchester United, the former Scunthorpe and Southampton chief said: “Yes, that’s the level we’d like to be at. We’re a long way for that at this moment in time. But that’s what we are striving for. To be at that level.”
Adkins delivered top-flight football to St Mary’s having taken charge of Southampton when they were languishing 13th in League One. United remained eighth when they were beaten 3-2 by Graham Westley’s side but Adkins, having previously orchestrated four straight wins in all competitions, insisted the result should not prompt another major overhaul of tactics and selection policy. His assessment of the contest, however, did contain a coded warning about the potential consequences of failing to follow the game-plan he devises for the meeting with Louis van Gaal’s squad to the letter.
“Being honest, I thought we played some good football,” Adkins said. “The atmosphere inside the stadium was superb. They scored three, from their point of view, excellent goals. We mentioned during our preparations that they take lots of shots from long-range. But we created opportunities and were forceful in our play.”