United and the Villains have met just six times in the FA Cup during their clubs’ history and it seems ironic that the last time that these two sides met was on the 8th January when the Blades came from a goal down to win 3-1 at Bramall Lane.
Naturally Gerard Houlier’s team will be the favourites to win this fixture and will be expected to complete a safe passage into round four, but as everyone knows the FA Cup is a strange old lady were anything is possible!
Our first clash with the Villa Park club came in 1893 when the Blades recorded a 3-0 league victory at the Lane, but our first encounter came en route to the 1901 FA Cup Final which after a 2-2 draw at the City Ground was forced to a replay at Derby.
United had beaten Sunderland, Everton and Wolverhampton Wanderers to reach the Semi-Finals were the Claret and Blue were to form a tough task. Villa had flown past Millwall (5-0), Nottingham Forest and Small Heath before facing United.
The Blades hit back and won the replay 3-0 before being famously beaten in the final after a replay against non-league Tottenham Hotspur.
It would be some 64 years later when the two teams once again locked horns in the prestigious cup; both sides were in the First Division of the Football League but Villa were struggling; it took them eight matches to record their first victory and during the course of the season were on the wrong end of big score lines with victories for Blackburn Rovers (0-4 & 1-5), Manchester United (0-7) and Liverpool (1-5).
Though they beat Bradford City heavily (7-1) in the League Cup; in the FA Cup they beat Midlands rivals Coventry City (3-0) before being drawn against the Blades in round four at Bramall Lane.
The Blades had already disposed of Bristol City (3-0) in a replay after a 1-1 draw at Ashton Gate but it was the Birmingham based club who would get the upper hand this time; winning 2-0 – though they would eventually fall out in the 5th round following a second replay against Midlands rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers (1-3).
We fast forward a decade later and the two sides would once again come face to face were it was United who would have been considered as the top team; Villa applying their trade in the Second Division whilst the Blades were still in the top flight.
But it would be the underdogs who would come out on top in the fixture; the Villains winning 4-1 in the fourth round at Villa Park – they would also win promotion back into the First Division.
The 1996 campaign was a little similar to the one in which we are suffering with now; United started off terribly – losing their first five league fixtures under Dave Bassett and by the time their FA Cup Fourth Round tie had come along the Blades were sitting at the bottom of the Second Division.
However they had made the national press in the previous round; a Dane Whitehouse goal secured a 1-1 draw at Highbury before, in the replay against Arsenal Carl Veart headed home to send the Bramall Lane club into frenzy.
Live Television had selected the meeting with United and Villa; the home side had changed mangers only weeks earlier with Howard Kendall stepping in.
For Villa the 1995-96 season was one to remember; they comfortable lifted the Coca-Cola League Cup; beating Leeds United (3-0) in the Final at Wembley and in the FA Cup Third Round disposed of non-leaguers Gravesend & Northfleet (3-0).
The tie at Bramall Lane would end in victory for the Premiership outfit, Savo Milosovic was deemed to have been tripped in the area by keeper Alan Kelly and a penalty was awarded; Dwight Yorke (pictured) cheekily chipped into the net.
Following the victory they went onto lose (0-3) to Liverpool at the semi-final stage at Old Trafford after flying past Ipswich Town (3-1) and Nottingham Forest (1-0).
Our last meeting together was in 2005 when the Blades came back from a goal down to win 3-1 at Bramall Lane in round three. The scores were locked level (0-0) at half-time but shortly into the second half Gareth Barry (47 minutes) put the visitors ahead.
On 55 minutes the Blades were level when defender Danny Cullip headed home from a corner before Andy Liddell (82 & 83) netted a brace inside 60 seconds to send United into round four.
They went onto beat West Ham United in a replay before; again in a replay falling to eventual cup winners Arsenal in a penalty shoot out!