Michael Jordan once said if you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it or work round it.
The Blades’ time in League One hasn’t felt like a pit-stop, it has felt like an eternity. What is not astonishing is that the club were relegated- after all Bolton, Wolves and Wigan have all dropped through the Championship trap door in recent years. But what is mind-boggling is that for a club the size of United it has taken them six years to get out of the division.
Final day goals from Kieran Freeman, Billy Sharp and Daniel Lafferty summed up their season, a side not bowed by frustration, even after they were twice pegged back by Kristian Dennis and Paul McGinn in what was a plucky Chesterfield performance.
They’ve now finally achieved their demanding goal with 100 points. Chris Wilder’s appointment, a local lad with a daring dream, has been a revelation. He is a more than a manager, a person who has connected with not just the footballing brains but the souls of every supporter.
So, no surprise that by the first minute they were singing his name, and rightly so. After four games into the season the side languished at the pit of the league and a change was needed.
Wilder understood the mechanics of his team and experimented with three at the back. United never looked back.
After the Chesterfield guard of honour and the pyrotechnics it was actually the away side who made the fiery start, Dennis breaking away from Jack O’Connell to strike the ball just past the post, before he raced through again minutes later but was denied by Simon Moore at close range.
It was a nervy start from the home side, a game which felt like an end of season celebration. A cynical tackle on Freeman from Reece Mitchell brought the first yellow card of the game, an indication that United’s wing-backs were becoming ever more adventurous.
In a blink of an eye the home side ramped up the pressure and within minutes they were ahead. A positive run from Jake Wright forced a smart stop from Thorsten Stuckmann, who could only parry into the path of Freeman who duly tapped home.
The home crowd erupted in jubilation, a consistent sight for those who had visited Bramall Lane this season.
For the last seven months Billy Sharp had created nightmares for defences, but was quiet in the first half. Out of no-where though he produced a fine low driving effort that was expertly tipped onto the post by Stuckmann.
Leon Clarke had scored in his last five appearances but was forced off due to a nasty looking injury after a fall in the box, James Hanson his replacement as Clarke left the pitch to a standing ovation.
Chesterfield never looked likely they would fold and even though they already knew their fate would lie in League Two next season, their spirit was undoubted.
Mitchell switched wings and his pace troubled Daniel Lafferty. A quick break away forced Moore to race out of his goal-line but in the end he fouled Mitchell which resulted in a penalty. Dennis cooly converted the spot-kick to deservedly draw the away side level.
What was already a dramatic match exploded in the second half. In a matter of moments United re-took the lead when Sharp found himself in acres of space, his deft header finding the bottom of corner.
Chesterfield replied instantly, and after a neat combination from the right McGinn found the bottom left corner with a powerful low drive.
For the second time in the match the Spireites had pegged the champions back, but they were subsequently dealt a hammer blow straight from the kick-off after Dan Gardner received a straight red card for an off the ball altercation.
It proved pivotal. The Blades pushed forward at every opportunity, Sharp seeing two near identical attempts swivel past the far post. As the home crowd sensed an opening they were probably not expecting Lafferty to provide the goods, but the left back got his reward through a deflected effort.
In fact, the goal could be seen as a metaphor for United’s season. Wilder has revolutionised the squad in such a short period of time and they’ve finally climbed their wall.