Chris Wilder agrees Sheffield United departure ahead of official announcement

Chris Wilder had weeks of disagreements with the Sheffield United board and shared heated exchanges in virtual meetings over recruitment policies and plans for next season; Blades bottom of Premier League and 12 points off safety with 10 games remaining; Friday press conference called off

Chris Wilder (AP) 1:10
Chris Wilder is set to leave Sheffield United, Tim Thornton reacts to an eventful day at Bramall Lane

Chris Wilder's Sheffield United departure is expected to be announced on Saturday evening, Sky Sports News understands.

Wilder will be leaving his role after nearly five years in charge, following weeks of disagreements over the running of the club and plans for next season.

Wilder, who took over at Bramall Lane in May 2016, held meetings with the board on Friday, but it looks increasingly likely he will leave by mutual consent despite last-ditch attempts to reconcile the differences between manager and club.

Sheffield United cancelled Wilder's pre-match news conference on Friday, intended to preview Sunday's trip to Leicester, live on Sky Sports, blaming "circumstances beyond our control".

Sheffield United's manager Chris Wilder gives directions to his players during the English Premier League soccer match between Sheffield United and Liverpool at Bramall Lane stadium in Sheffield, England, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021. (Oli Scarff, Pool via AP) 0:58
Speaking on Soccer Saturday, Lee Hendrie says he thought Wilder could bring Sheffield United back up next season and doesn't know who can replace him without 'ripping the roots out'

Wilder, 53, and the board were engaged in heated exchanges earlier this year.

    Key to the disagreements has been the club's recruitment policies, with the board wanting Wilder to concentrate on managing the team and less on signing players.

    0:45
    Earlier this month, Wilder said he did not know whether he would be Sheffield United manager next season

    Wilder pushed hard for the signings of Aaron Ramsdale (£18m) and Rhian Brewster (£23m) - and would not consider other options - but the board believes they were not what was needed this season to help them stay in the Premier League.

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    The Blades have spent almost the entirety of this season bottom of the table and are currently 12 points off safety with 10 games remaining.

    Wilder has told friends he wanted to continue managing the club in the same 'hands on' way, but felt he would be unable to do so if he agreed to the changes proposed by the club.

    Relations between manager and club soured further in January when no loan signings were made, despite the expectation a midfielder and left centre-back would arrive to bolster Wilder's options.

    preview image 1:07
    Tim Thornton reports issues surrounding recruitment have led to tension between Wilder and the owners of Sheffield United

    Wilder has become increasingly frustrated at the club's refusal to increase the wage structure for the first-team squad and his repeated assertions the club is full of "Championship players" is understood to have upset the club's owner Prince Abdullah.

    United have spent more than £70m since January 2020 and the board has become increasingly frustrated with Wilder playing down the worth of his squad. They feel he is undermining the club's assets by down-playing the available talents, rather than telling people how good his players are.

    It is understood Wilder's plans for next season were well advanced, hoping to keep his present squad intact and bring in four new additions, most on loan deals.

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    There has also been frustration at boardroom level after United missed out on a number of potential signings, believed to include Ollie Watkins and Tomas Soucek, who have made key contributions this season at Aston Villa and West Ham respectively.

    The Blades have lost 22 of their 28 Premier League matches but have reached the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, where they travel to Chelsea next weekend.

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    Sheffield United are currently 12 points adrift from safety at the foot of the table, with West Brom eight points behind 17th-placed Brighton - but Fulham have hit form and sit level on points with the Seagulls, with one extra game played.

    Only eight points divide the Cottagers in 18th and Crystal Palace in 13th, which leaves all the teams in between in danger of slipping into the second tier come May: Brighton, Newcastle, Burnley and Southampton.

    Here, we take a look at each club's current trajectory in form, how the fixture lists compare, and Paul Merson contributes his views...

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