Match Report: Sheffield United thrash Aston Villa 4-1 to record a statement victory

Sheffield United faced Aston Villa this afternoon
Sheffield United faced Aston Villa this afternoon

Having unveiled another new signing and recalled Paul Coutts during the build-up to this game, SheffieldUnited already riding on the crest of a wave when Jack O'Connell headed them into an early lead.

The euphoria continued throughout the course of a thoroughly one-sided match which left Chris Wilder's side being lauded as serious promotion contenders and left Steve Bruce clinging onto his job.

Even more impressive than the scoreline, Aston Villa are former champions of Europe after all, was the quality of United's performance. Simply irresistible at the beginning of the contest, the four goal lead they established when Billy Sharp claimed his fourth in only five outings could, indeed should, have been more.
Anwar El Ghazi quickly reduced the deficit but Villa were second best throughout.

United, who announced Martin Cranie's arrival less than an hour before kick-off, grabbed the fixture by the scruff of the neck and rarely relinquished their grip. The defender, who joins fellow deadline day recruits Conor Washington and Marvin Johnson in South Yorkshire, enjoyed one of the best seats in the house as Mark Duffy and Oliver Norwood confirmed United's superiority before Sharp joined them on the scoresheet.
Washington was introduced during the closing stages after completing his free transfer from Queens Park Rangers and produced some clever touches. Coutts, making his first appearance in a matchdsay squad since breaking a leg 10 months ago, remained on the bench as United recorded a statement victory.

Wilder, the United manager, had promised his team would not be intimidated despite describing the visitors as red-hot favourites beforehand. The reasoning behind his claim was an already lavish transfer budget boosted further by the arrival of two multi-billionaires. But, as the 50-year-old reminded beforehand, this match would be decided on the pitch rather than in the boardroom. Christian Purslow, Villa's new chief executive, called for patience after being confirmed in post yesterday. But, watching the travelling supporters fight among themselves as United ran amok, the former Chelsea CEO could now be forced to change his tune. Villa are 11th, eight places behind Wilder's third-placed out, but returned home a thoroughly disheveled bunch.
Bruce played a fast one ahead of kick-off, claiming John McGinn, Jonathan Kodjia and most importantly Jack Grealish were all expected to missing due to injury. When the squads were named, all three were playing. But their presence, despite Villa's lofty reputations, did not prevent United racing into a two goal lead. Although the scoreline midway through the opening period will have pleased Wilder no end, the fact his side were more than worth the advantage encouraged him even more. O'Connell's effort, powered home beyond Oliver Nyland from Norwood's centre, marked the start of an assault which, barring El Ghazi's effort, last throughout. When Duffy tightened the hosts' grip, it was no more than they deserved.

There were, however, some moments of frustration for the United bench. Grealish is a delightful footballer but equally accomplished at theatrics too. Wilder was furious when Chris Basham's touch on the youngster brought a caution, triple salchow and pike. It was the briefest of cameos but one which revealed why, for all his gifts, Grealish seldom receives the love his talents deserve.
The difference between these two teams before the break, other than the quality of their work of course, was the fact United appeared inspired by the challenge while Villa were slow, ponderous and, by the time it drew to a close, thoroughly dispirited.

O'Connell's finish was as decisive as Norwood's delivery when Nyland was beaten with only six minutes gone. Likewise's Duffy's decision to go for goal after drifting past McGinn and threading a low shot into the bottom corner of the net. John Egan and Norwood had already hit the woodwork before that 24th minute intervention so, when the latter scored in the 41st minute, it really was no surprise. Preparing to whip a free-kick into the area, the midfielder instead beat Nyland at the near post after spotting Villa's goalkeeper out of position.
Resisting the temptation to make wholesale changes, Bruce sent the same eleven players out onto the pitch at the start of the second-half. If he hoped for some sort of response, the former United manager was sorely mistaken as Sharp pounced in the 47th minute; lifting the ball above Nyland's outstretched palm after swiveling on a sixpence.
Villa finally laid a glove on United in the 60th minute when El Ghazi, profiting from Glenn Whelan's through ball, rolled home from close range.

Sheffield United: Henderson, Stevens, Fleck (Lundstram 63), O'Connell, Basham, Sharp (Washington 82), Egan, Norwood, McGoldrick, Freeman, Duffy (Lafferty 73). Not used: Woodburn, Coutts, Stearman, Moore.
Aston Villa: Nyland, Tuanzebe (Hourihane 63), Chester, Whelan, McGinn (Hepburn-Murphy 77), Grealish, Jedinak, Hutton (Taylor 77), El Ghazi, Kodjia, Elmohamady. Not used: Lansbury, Bree, Bjarnason, Moreira.
Referee: James Linnington (Isle of Wight).
Attendance: 26, 030
Goals: O'Connell (6), Duffy (24), Norwood (41), Sharp (47), El Ghazi (60)