Marco Silva wished the four teams in the Championship play-offs all the best in their hunt for play-off glory after watching his side get dismantled by Sheffield United. The Blades thumped the champions 4-0 to seal a fifth-place finish and set up a date with Nottingham Forest in the play-off semi-finals.
Paul Heckingbottom clearly has Silva’s number having completed the double over them and kept a clean sheet on both occasions. Not bad when you consider they have walked away with the title scoring 106 goals in the process.
It means a two-legged tie against Steve Cooper’s Forest now awaits for Heckingbottom’s men, who enjoyed their end of season player-of-the-year awards last night. Although feeling the visitors made the better start, he felt United took control of the game the minute Morgan Gibbs-White headed the hosts in front.
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He said: “If you are talking about the start, we started much better. For the first 10 minutes we were the best team and the big difference on the pitch.
“We knew that they were really strong in the counter attack, they always leave two players ready for counter attack, two dynamic players. We started well and beat their first pressure most of the times and play in our offensive area.
“They didn’t start so well and they punish us at 1-0 and got the confidence in that moment. They punished a big mistake from ourselves in the second goal.
“We knew the quality they have in the attack line and after this we give so much space to them to create problems for us. I have to be fair with them, they deserved their win clear.”
Fulham were the big favorites to go up at the start of the season, along with fellow relegated sides Sheffield United and West Brom. They were all expected to be challenging along with Bournemouth due to the advantage of Premier League money and parachute payments.
It hasn’t quite worked out that way and only Fulham have lived up to expectations, although United have recovered from a poor start to still be in the promotion picture. For the Baggies, however, it’s been a disastrous campaign.
He believes United have a lot of quality in their squad as they prepare for next week’s crunch clash. He added: “Along with us and West Bromwich they were the contenders, the three clubs who got relegated last season.
“All of us have to take the responsibility to be contenders for the next season and with some of the other clubs around, like Bournemouth and Nottingham Forest, Middlesbrough it’s clear they have the quality to do it.
“Play-offs are always really tough and you have a second game to do something different if the first one doesn’t come good to you. Many things can make a big impact in that match.
“They [United] have a lot of quality in their squad, they are really strong as a team. Like the others. I wish the best for the four and let’s see what they can do.
“They [United] started really badly this season but the second half of the season was much, much better and now they have this chance and I wish the best for all of them.”