Sheffield United v Manchester United memorable FA Cup fixtures

Glyn Hodges and Brian McClair in 1993
Glyn Hodges and Brian McClair in 1993
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When Sheffield United drew Manchester United in the third round of the FA Cup, it called to mind the early 1990s when the teams were regular cup acquaintances.

The pair faced each other four times in five years from 1990 with each tie taking place at Bramall Lane. There were talking points aplenty in each match with red cards, disputed goals, penalties given and not and the two sides of the mercurial Eric Cantona.

Probably the most memorable match for United fans came on 14 February 1993 - and a day when Glyn Hodges became every Blades’ sweetheart. Manchester United arrived at Bramall Lane that day for the fifth-round clash as reigning Premiership champions and they were purring again under Alex Ferguson.

Theirs had been a straightforward and solid progression through the previous rounds with home wins against Bury and Brighton.

The Blades were just about keeping their heads above water although their form of two wins in seven league games was hardly the stuff of fantasy. The team had also been less than impressive in the cup and had been on the brink of going out at the first attempt against third-tier Burnley before they clawed back two goals to force a 2-2 draw.

They went on to win the replay 4-2 at Turf Moor before staggering unconvincingly past Hartlepool to book their date with the Red Devils.

Charlie Hartfield was sent off for slapping Eric Cantona

Charlie Hartfield was sent off for slapping Eric Cantona

The game was rescheduled for a Sunday in front of the TV cameras. The terrace at the Bramall Lane end was swollen with scarcely room to breathe on the old John Street stand.

Ferguson picked a strong line up with the likes of Peter Schmeichel, Denis Irwin, Andrei Kanchelskis, Paul Ince, Mark Hughes and a fresh-faced Ryan Giggs. Lining up against them was Brian Deane, Ian Bryson, Charlie Hartfield, Glyn Hodges and Franz Carr with Alan Kelly in goal.

The teams went at it full throttle from kick-off with the visitors serving notice of their intentions with Giggs presenting an overlapping threat from the opening seconds. The first action of any real note saw Manchester United take the lead with a superb half-volley from Ryan Giggs who had got ahead of Paul Beesley, the ball nestling into the bottom corner beyond the reach of Kelly.

However, United drew level just four minutes later. Hodges sent in a free-kick from the left which went through to Schmeichel only for the ball to come off his legs and bounce up at Jamie Hoyland who bundled it over the line.

Jamie Hoyland

Jamie Hoyland

And the Blades went ahead five minutes before the break when Hodges sent a sublime lob over the keeper who was beaten all ends up. Franz Carr could have added a third before half-time when he was found in the area by Ian Bryson but the winger was off balance after spinning and sent the ball wide.

The game became ever more stretched in the seconf half with Hodges the creative force prompting John Motson’s apparent observation of “this man’s left foot is magic”. However, Man Utd were handed a golden chance of an equaliser when they were awarded a penalty after Mitch Ward hauled down Paul Ince leaving referee Mike Reed no choice but to point to the spot.

Up stepped Bruce only for the central defender to send his kick against the post and out of play. TV replays showed Brian Gayle had not merely encroached into the area but he was standing fully a couple of feet in.

It mattered not to the Blades fans though, what had already been a red-hot atmosphere going up a notch.

Ian Bryson

Ian Bryson

The other three games all saw victories for Manchester United. Brian McClair headed home a contentious goal in March 1990 when the had appeared to go out before the visitors were awarded a corner from which the goal was scored.

In January 1994 Mark Hughes scored the only goal and was then sent off for picking up two yellow cards for challenges on Chris Kamara and David Tuttle.

The final match in January 1995 started with United denied what seemed a clear penalty when Bruce made no contact with the ball but plenty with striker Nathan Blake’s thigh in front of goal.

The referee was unmoved but he was quick to act soon after when Hartfield reacted to a raised knee from Cantona by slapping the Frenchman on the side of the head, the youngster getting a straight red card.

Hughes then put Ferguson’s side ahead before Cantona scored a goal that truly took the breath away with a perfectly-judged chip over Kelly.

Franz Carr

Franz Carr