Sheffield United wanted a "conversation" with Man City before heartbreaking discovery

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Paul Heckingbottom admitted he would “attempt to have a conversation” with Pep Guardiola aimed at persuading him to allow Tommy Doyle and James McAtee to represent Sheffield United against Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-finals next month, before learning that competition rules dictate they will be ineligible for selection.

Signed on loan from the reigning Premier League champions, McAtee and Doyle both started the quarter-final victory over Blackburn Rovers with the latter scoring a memorable winning goal in added time.

However, while the team mates celebrated reaching Wembley, the duo’s hopes of appearing at the national stadium were later dashed when United were paired with City in the last four.

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Speaking immediately after the final whistle, Heckingbottom admitted Guardiola’s men were the “one team” he didn’t want to face because it would “complicate” the loan situation.

“There would have to be discussions,” the United manager said, when asked what would happen if his wish wasn’t granted. “They are here with us. But they are their (Manchester City’s) players.”

“My wish is now that we don’t draw City,” he added. “Because that would complicate things with the loans.”

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola: Richard Sellers/PA Wire.Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola: Richard Sellers/PA Wire.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola: Richard Sellers/PA Wire.

Regulations governing the use of “Temporary (Loan) Transfers” in the competition explicitly state: “The Association will not give permission for players on loan or work experience to play against the lending club.”

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Chelsea’s Connor Gallagher found himself in a similar situation last term when Crystal Palace, where he spent the duration of the campaign, met their London rivals at the same stage. Palace’s Patrick Viera, who left his position at Selhurst Park last week, urged Stamford Bridge officials to let Gallagher take part in the contest, which Chelsea went on to win. But his plea fell on deaf ears with Thomas Tuchel, the Frenchman’s opposite number, expressing sympathy for Gallagher’s situation but insisting he was not “in the business” of helping opponents.

Doyle’s grandfathers, Mike and Glyn Pardoe, lifted the cup with City 54 years ago.

“It’s emotional for him, as you’d expect,” said Heckingbottom, who has also guided United to second in the Championship table. “But he’s very grounded and he knows what it takes to succeed, which I think comes from his family.”