Chris Wilder lavished praise on Liverpool after their 2-0 win over Sheffield United on Thursday night, saying he “loves everything about them.”
The Blades manager has overseen an excellent campaign so far in the Premier League, but after a 2-0 defeat to Man City at the end of 2019 they kicked off the year with the same result at Anfield.
It was far from the battling, confident performance that United showed in the previous meeting at Bramall Lane, which was only decided by a late Gini Wijnaldum goal.
Instead it was a display that showcased Liverpool’s ever-increasing clout as favourites for the title: 74.8 percent possession, 19 shots to United’s three, 1,108 touches and a Premier League-record 970 passes.
The visitors struggled throughout, and though Wilder stressed it was “very unlike” his team, he admitted defeat to a side he clearly admires.
“Both parts of the game we couldn’t lay a glove on them, didn’t do anything that has got us in this position,” he told BT Sport.
“I thought they were outstanding, but they didn’t have to get out of second or third gear.
“People talk about academy coaches and all of this nonsense about technical and tactical stuff: when we played them at our place, we laid a glove on them and made it difficult for them.
“[Here] they won every first ball, every second ball, dropped on every second ball, ran forward and ran back, and they did that miles better than us.
“So when academy coaches and all this nonsense that comes out about coaching, have a little peek at Liverpool tonight, like I said playing in second and third gear.
“They still had the humility and the desire to do that as world champions, as European champions, and obviously well on their way to being Premier League champions.”
Wilder was asked about the circumstances surrounding Mohamed Salah‘s opener, with right wing-back George Baldock slipping to allow Andy Robertson through, and though he accepted the Reds’ fortune, he turned it back to praise.
“Obviously it’s a bit unfortunate with Georgie slipping, but then again they were ruthless,” he continued.
“Apart from the goalkeeper [Dean Henderson]—talk about redeem yourself, he certainly did tonight in his performance—we had a couple of chances, but it was a really below-par performance.
“I’ve got to say, when you go into the Premier League, you possibly do expect one of these performances along the way, so for it to be our 20th or 21st and it’s the first time it’s happened then I can take a little bit of comfort from that.
“But certainly now we need to dust ourselves off; thankfully, we’ve played Liverpool twice.
“I wish Jurgen and Liverpool all the best, I love everything about them: the way they go about, tactical and technical players, but the top bit, the physical and mental part of it, is amazing.
“And if that’s good enough for them, it’s certainly good enough for anyone else.”