Both Sheffield United and Aston Villa were a successful force during the late Victorian era when the modern format of a league and cup system was invented in 1888 - though of course the FA Cup had been created some years earlier.
Villa had domestic success; winning the Football League during the seasons - 1893/94, 1895/96, 1896/97 (double), 1898/99, 1899/00 and 1909/10. They were Champions of the FA Cup on five occasions; 1887, 1895, 1897, 1905, and 1913 - they also had success in 1920 and the last time they won the competition in 1957. They have been beaten finalists in 1892, 1924 and 2000 in the last cup-final played out at the old Wembley. Whereas Sheffield United won the Football League only once when, during 1897/98 campaign they piped Villa to top spot, but had further success in the FA Cup, winning on four occasions; 1899, 1902, 1915 and 1925 and runners-up in 1901 and 1936.
It was en-route to the 1901 FA Cup Final which the Blades famously lost to non-leaguers Tottenham Hotspur in a replay that the Sheffielders met Aston Villa in the semi-final stages. The Blades had beaten Sunderland (2-1), Everton (2-0) and Wolverhampton Wanderers (4-0) to face Villa whilst the Midlands club had overcome Millwall Athletic (5-0), Nottingham Forest (3-1 replay) and Small Heath (1-0 replay) to set up a tie at the City Ground (home of Nottingham Forest) against the Blades.
The initial fixture at the City Ground was drawn by two goals each on 6 April and played out a replay five days later at Derby County''s former Baseball Ground. The United forwards had kept up the pace well but their steady centre-halves kept the Villa from going under, they then got into the game but their shooting was poor but the Blades went into the break leading by two goals to one. The second half was much different and it was Villa who controlled the proceedings of the final 45 minutes, Foulke was kept busy in the Blades goal but he was beaten once with the game finishing 2-2. United had Harry Thickett absent through the sad death of his wife and his abcent from the team contributed to a weak defence.
United overshadowed there opponents in the replay at Derby, winning by three goals to nil. Fred Priest who scored in every round (including the two finals) except against Everton was on the score-sheet after netting a brace whilst Walter Bennett also scored. During the cup-run Foulke became a hero, saving penalties against Sunderland and Wolves. United was defeated in the final against Southern League opponents Tottenham 3-1 in a replay at Bolton.
After disposing of Bristol City in round 3 the Blades faced Villa, who had beaten Midland rivals Coventry City for the first time in 64 years. Both were top flight sides at the time and United had already won 4-2 at Bramall Lane earlier in the season but it would be the Birmingham side that came away from the Steel City with a two goal victory without reply but their cup run was short-lived and were beaten by rivals Wolves in the next round. This defeat however didn''t come as a shock. United had, had a hard time in the league and hadn''t won since there victory over Villa in early December.
1975 was a big year for the Blades, it was the year the South Stand opened and put-paid to any cricket being played at Bramall Lane on a professional basis and managed by Ken Furphy the Red and White Wizards finished 6th and just missed out on a vital European spot. United had again beaten Bristol City in the third round - winning 2-0 at the Lane whilst Aston Villa who were a third tier club won the game at Villa Park by four goals to one - Tony Field netted for the Blades whilst Keith Leonard (brace), Ray Graydon and Chris Nicholl scored before a 35,881 crowd.
In 1996 Australian Carl Veart was hero of the hour when the Sheffield side beat Arsenal in a replay at Bramall Lane in the FA Cup Third Round in 1996 with Aston Villa awaiting the victors. Live on national television the Blades were beaten by one goal to nil - Dwight Yorke netting a penalty after Savo Milosovic was judged to have been fouled by keeper Alan Kelly. Villa won the League Cup that season but in the biggest domestic cup were beaten at Old Trafford (3-0) by Liverpool in the Semi-Finals.
United had to wait nine years to extract revenge from that defeat live on national television when veteran forward Andy Liddell struck twice in a minute as Neil Warnock''s promotion-chasing side proved more than a match for their Premiership rivals. Villa, who have now been dumped out of the FA Cup at the third round stage for the last four years, were over-run by the play-off chasing Blades. Midfielder Michael Tonge gave an early warning, firing over the top from the edge of the area before Liddell picked out Phil Jagielka and the blonde-haired midfielder''s fierce low 15-yard strike flashed wide of the far post.
Keeper Paddy Kenny''s poor throw out let in Gareth Barry whose powerful cross was too high for Carlton Cole as he surged into the box before Thomas Sorensen produced the first of a string of saves top keep Villa in the game. The Danish international was quickly down to keep out Alan Quinn''s low strike in the 17th minute before tipping over Jagielka''s looping header after neat work by Liddell. Andy Gray found a gap after a neat back-heel from Liddell in the 29th minute but his fierce 15-yard strike was snapped up by Sorensen.
Full-back Mark Delaney caught United on the break as he picked out Cole whose volley was too close to keeper Paddy Kenny before Sorensen produced a stunning save in the 33rd minute to foil Jagielka. Against the run of play Villa snatched the lead in the 47th minute. Lee Hendrie threaded the ball to Barry who nipped between Leigh Bromby and Danny Cullip to beat Kenny with a right-foot shot from just outside the area. United were level eight minutes later after winning a corner on the right. Liddell touched the ball to Jon Harley, his left-foot cross was missed by Delaney and Jlloyd Samuel as Cullip nipped in to stab the ball home from close range. Liddell fired a free-kick straight at Sorensen after Harley had been upended before Tonge weaved his way in from the left before firing across the face of the goal.
Villa were more composed after the interval and when Barry picked out Hendrie in the 80th minute, his first-time shot flashed wide of the target. However, two late goals sank Villa. Substitute Nick Montgomery''s long ball down the right was flicked on by Quinn and Liddell, who looked two yards offside, stabbed the ball through Sorensen''s legs from 12 yards. He killed off Villa 60 seconds later when he ran onto Tonge''s pass and hit the ball home first time from the edge of the box.
Kyle Walker enjoyed the perfect start to his Aston Villa career to help ease the pressure on manager Gerard Houllier. The 20-year-old defender, signed on loan from Tottenham, could hardly have written the script better himself as he scored a brilliant goal nine minutes into his debut in a 3-1 victory against Sheffield United, the club he supported as a boy and where he began his career. Marc Albrighton made it 2-0 before the break and Villa were able to withstand a second-half fight back by the Blades, for whom Jamie Ward scored from the spot, before Stiliyan Petrov - after Ashley Young''s dismissal - secured their place in the hat for the fourth round of the FA Cup.
Houllier, who had included Robert Pires in his starting line-up despite his fellow Frenchman''s critical comments this week, would have been encouraged as Villa made a blistering start at Bramall Lane. Micky Adams'' side looked intimidated and their feeble start was summed up perfectly when Walker strode through to give the visitors the lead. The right-back slipped away from one challenge just inside the United half and advanced into space before side-stepping Rob Kozluk and slotting home past Steve Simonsen.
It was a tremendous goal but Walker kept his celebrations muted against his old club. The home side had shown little in response but should have taken advantage when Richard Dunne''s weak header allowed in Ward but Brad Friedel spread his big frame to block. Ched Evans, the Blades'' former Manchester City striker, sent a header wide from Leon Britton''s free-kick but the tie seemed as good as over when Albrighton volleyed home for Villa in the 33rd minute. Young made the goal with a trademark burst down the left and lovely dinked cross to the far post that left Albrighton with an open goal to crash in his volley.
Gabriel Agbonlahor then threatened to make it a first-half rout but was denied by a brave save from Simonsen. The Blades, after a first half that could not have been much worse, started off the second in the best possible way. In the 48th minute Lee Williamson enticed Carlos Cuellar to trip him inside the box and referee Michael Jones was well placed to award the penalty. Ward smashed it home down the middle with Friedel diving to his right. The goal fired up United and Williamson then drifted an effort onto the roof of the net from a tight angle. Walker, Villa''s hero of the first half, tried a trick on the edge of his own area and was hurried into a pass which ended up at Daniel Bogdanovic''s feet and only Friedel''s acrobatics prevented further embarrassment for the young debutant.
With 25 minutes left Houllier made a double substitution to try to stop the rot with Petrov and Downing replacing Barry Bannan and Pires. Villa did look stronger as a result and Agbonlahor used his pace to get ahead of the defence but his low shot hit the side-betting. Petrov should have sealed Villa''s place in the hat for the fourth round draw with two chances in two minutes. First of all he was put through by Downing and tried to tuck in under Simonsen but the keeper made a good block, then his header from Downing''s corner bounced just the wrong side of the post.
United needed some fresh encouragement and received it when Young was given his second booking after a foul on Kyle Bartley. An overhead kick - by centre-half Johnny Ertl of all people - brought a terrific save out of Friedel. In injury time Petrov made amends for his earlier miss with a clinical finish following a one-two with the impressive Albrighton.
06 Apr 1901 - Sheffield United 2 Aston Villa 2 (SF)
11 Apr 1901 - Sheffield United 3 Aston Villa 0 (SF Replay)
30 Jan 1965 - Sheffield United 0 Aston Villa 2 (RD4)
25 Jan 1975 - Aston Villa 4 Sheffield United 1
28 Jan 1996 - Sheffield United 0 Aston Villa 1
08 Jan 2005 - Sheffield United 3 Aston Villa 1
08 Jan 2011 - Sheffield United 1 Aston Villa 3