Nigel Clough has warned his players that today’s match with MK Dons is far more important than next week’s Capital One Cup semi-final at Tottenham Hotspur.
Clough made the admission as Sheffield United attempt to claw back the 15 point gap between themselves and second-placed Bristol City in the League One table.
Clough’s preparations for a match he concedes could have a “huge” bearing on the race for the Championship have taken place against a flurry of work in the transfer market with Chris O’Grady, Paul Coutts, Kieron Freeman and John Brayford among United’s targets.
Gary Mackay-Steven was another but Celtic yesterday beat Clough to the Dundee United winger’s services.
“We’re under no illusions about how big this game at MK is,” Clough, the United manager, said. “It’s our next one and so it’s more important than Spurs.
“Nothing is decided at this stage of the season and although we’re confident about finishing in the top six, we want to finish in the top two.
“Looking at the state of play, with MK being right up there as well, we know what we’ve got to try and do.”
United’s hosts and fellow promotion contenders saw leading goalscorer Benik Afobe join Wolverhampton Wanderers in midweek but signed Jonson Clarke-Harris on a month long loan from Rotherham yesterday.
Clough added: “They’ll be hurting from that (losing Afobe), without a doubt, and it could hit them hard. But MK are more than a one man team and the type of side that, when they’re hot, they’re very hot indeed.
“We have been putting in the performances though and that’s what gives us confidence. We produced a great one against Preston (North End) last weekend and got the result it deserved which hasn’t always been the case this season.
“We want to go down there and build on that, carry on the momentum because we also beat Queens Park Rangers (in the FA Cup) in the match before.
“There’s no way we’ll be taking MK lightly. I don’t for one moment think they’ll be taking us lightly either.”
United, who had submitted two bids for Mackay-Steven, were forced to call time on their pursuit of the Scotland international when Celtic confirmed he has entered into a pre-contract agreement with Parkhead’s hierarchy following talks with Deila overnight.
The Norwegian, who still hopes Mackay-Steven will arrive in Glasgow before his deal expires at the end of the season, said: “I’ve been looking at Gary since we beat them earlier in the season. I saw his penetrating runs and he was tricky.
“He’s a player I like, he’s quick, can go in behind, go past people. He has a good understanding of the game and suits our style of playing.”