To watch Chris Wilder on the touchline at Everton you would think he was from the old breed of football managers.
Dressed in a club tracksuit, barking orders to his players, the Sheffield United boss looked at odds with the smartly dressed and rather calmer Marco Silva.
However, there is nothing old school about Wilder’s management.
The 51-year-old masterminded the Blades’ first away win of the season, 2-0 at Goodison Park – no mean feat against a Toffees side whose last home defeat was against champions Manchester City in February.
United are a very solid eighth in their first season back in the top flight and unbeaten away from home since mid-January. A record even more impressive when you consider it has included trips to Chelsea and now Everton.
So how does Wilder keep managing to surpass expectations?
A master of psychology
About 30 minutes after watching his side take three points from a side notoriously tough to beat at home, Wilder sat down in front of the media and gave his blunt assessment of the performance.
“With the ball it’s as poor as we’ve been this season,” he said.
It prompted a couple of chuckles, but he was deadly serious.
“It’s not like us,” he added. “We turned it over cheaply, made poor decisions – we didn’t have any control.
“I won’t con punters. We were excellent [against Southampton] last week and it’s roles reversed today.”
It is, perhaps, a surprising assessment of a first away win as a Premier League manager, but this is Chris Wilder and brutal honesty has paid off for him before.
Three weeks ago, Sheffield United were clapped off the pitch by fans despite a 2-1 home loss to Leicester.
“Cheers for effort doesn’t tick a box for me,” Wilder said afterwards.
His players responded by fighting back to earn a 2-2 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Two years ago, after a 1-0 defeat at Hull in United’s first season back in the Championship, Wilder criticised his players’ attitude and questioned their motivation to succeed. The response was a 3-1 win at Reading in their next game.
Sticking to what he does best
“To change our identity as a team would be very foolish and very dangerous.”
That is what Wilder said as his side prepared to embark on their first season back in the Premier League.
It is not hard to understand why Wilder is so determined to stick to his style. It worked for him when Alfreton Town won four trophies in 27 weeks. It worked when Oxford United regained their place in the Football League. It worked when Northampton won the League Two title and it worked when Sheffield United won promotion from League One to the Championship and then to the Premier League.
Understanding that also makes it clearer why he was critical of his side’s display at Everton.
They may have won 2-0 but they had just 30% possession and one shot on target. As Wilder pointed out afterwards, on another day this could easily have been a 3-0 defeat for his side.
Wilder wants his side to stick to their identity through the good times and the tough.
Recent history has not been kind on those sides who have abandoned what got them into the Premier League in the first place.
Huddersfield were praised for their swashbuckling ‘gegenpressing’ style when they went up in 2016-17 but after getting rid of that in their second season they were relegated in almost record time.
Fulham, meanwhile, spent millions to make wholesale changes to the squad that got them back into the Premier League and were relegated the following season.
Sheffield United may not have been at their best at Everton but they still showed a unity and a togetherness that was not quite so evident in the Toffees team who looked more like a collection of individuals.
Finding a diamond in the rough
Sheffield United’s signing of striker Lys Mousset from Bournemouth for £10m certainly took many observers by surprise, especially given he had only scored three goals in 58 Premier League appearances for the Cherries.
But Wilder has an eye for spotting players with ability who just haven’t quite realised their potential.
He turned Leon Clarke from a journeyman striker into one of the most prolific in the Championship two seasons ago and Mousset showed a glimpse of what he can offer with his clinical finish against Everton to wrap up the win.
But they are just one or two examples. The Blades’ team at Everton was, to all intents and purposes, a Championship team – yet they did not look out of place.
In fact defender John Egan, who three years ago was playing for Gillingham in League One, was arguably the best player on the pitch as he limited a multi-million pound Everton forward line that featured Moise Kean, Richarlison, Bernard and Gylfi Sigurdsson to just three shots on target.
Wilder is doing things his way in the Premier League, and earning more and more admirers as he does so.
“Chris Wilder is winning me over,” BBC pundit Garth Crooks said on Final Score on Saturday.
“His teams are not very sophisticated but, blimey, they are professional and they stick to it. They are surprising me.”