30 years on - How Man Utd star Lee Sharpe remembers losing the battle with Roland Nilsson in Sheffield Wednesday's 1991 League Cup final win

Lee Sharpe says he doesn’t remember much about Manchester United’s 1991 Rumbelows Cup final defeat to Sheffield Wednesday, but that he’s reminded of it often.

Wednesday, 21st April 2021, 9:40 am
Roland Nilsson (centre) played a key part in keeping dangerman Lee Sharpe quiet during Sheffield Wednesday's 1-0 League Cup final win over Manchester United back in 1991.

“To this day Sheffield Wednesday fans give me stick and tell me I’m still in Roland Nilsson’s pocket from that final,” he told The Star, looking back on his first Wembley final.

“But I got my own back a little while later and got the better of him in a game at Hillsborough, so for my money we’re even!”

The battle had been lauded as key in the build-up to a clash that pitted Sir Alex Ferguson’s men against a second-tier Wednesday with a point to prove. Then 19, Sharpe was the hottest prospect in English football. Keep him quiet, Owls boss Ron Atkinson had told his players, and they had every chance.

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“I just remember being double-marked by Nilsson and John Harkes,” he said.

“Speaking to Ron since, he’s told me they’d seen me as a bit of a dangerman and that they’d brought one of their young lads down to practice doubling-up on me in the game.

“Nilsson was a very good player. He was aggressive and he was quick and it was always a tough battle against him.

“But at that time I was probably a little bit cocky and didn’t really worry too much about who I was playing against. If I could get the best out of myself I’d have given anybody a tough game, it was about dealing with my own head. I remember not having a lot of joy with the ball.”

Any pain from the shock defeat wouldn’t last long for United fans, who within a month were celebrating a win over Johan Cruyff’s Barcelona in the Cup Winner’s Cup, a dynasty-sparking victory partly inspired by disappointment at Wembley, Sharpe believes.

“We developed a habit of bouncing back from days like that,” he said. “Getting beat by Sheffield Wednesday gave us a kick up the backside to go into the Cup Winner’s Cup and really put a good performance in.

“We always used losses as a learning curve and that one was no different.”

This article was first published in 2020