Aston Villa’s recent encounters with Sheffield United have been captivating, whether they’re in the FA Cup, within the midst of an enigmatic ten year Premier League spell, or most recently outside the top flight, we’ve covered it all in ten years against this weekend’s opponents.
In the past decade, Sheffield United have faced Aston Villa six times, with each of those half a dozen encounters including drama, shocks, or thrills for either side.
In recent memory, for most Villa fans, Robert Snodgrass’ injury time stunner at Bramall Lane could well claim the moment of the decade for a set of fans that’ll struggle to list too many more golden moments outside the past three years or so.
When Snodgrass stole all the points in 2018, both Sheffield United and Villa were competing on level terms, both gunning for promotion. Though it was only seven years previous when in 2011, the Blades - who were then flirting with Championship relegation with Crystal Palace - welcomed Villa an FA Cup tie.
For Gerard Houllier’s Villa, the cup provided relief from a stuttering start to a 2010-11 campaign that saw the likes of Ashley Young and Robert Pires sitting inside the Premier League bottom three in January.
Sheffield born Kyle Walker penned a six month loan at Villa Park that season away from Tottenham Hotspur. Within ten minutes, the Steel City kid stunned his boyhood club by weaving through the a sea of red and white before applying a finish that indicated his future promise in the game.
Villa slipped into the bottom three after a home defeat by Sunderland before travelling to South Yorkshire, but the visitors showed no sign of their Premier League malaise when Albrighton extended the lead.
Pires also played his part, playing under his French countryman Houllier. While the Arsenal icon may have felt lost at Bramall Lane at the start of the decade, times have now changed in these parts of the world. Chris Wilder’s buoyant Blades beat the Gunners at home two months ago and now sit above them in the Premier League table.
Three years later and Villa drew Sheffield United in the FA Cup once more. In reverse fashion, Brian Clough’s side traveled to Villa Park, this time as a relegation threatened League 1 side who started their 2013 campaign with one win in 14.
Alex McLeish surpassed Houllier, before Paul Lambert took charge from his fellow Scotsman in what was a hectic couple of years for the seven time FA Cup winners.
It was a sign of things to come, perhaps. A cup run held little value to Lambert, who was then solely focused on league survival, for yet anther year.
On the opposing side, Stephen McGinn, brother of John held a Sheffield midfield against Fabian Delph and Ashley Westwood, whilst a fresh faced Dominic Calvert-Lewin waited in the wings for Cloughy’s men if called upon.
Goals, however weren’t in short demand for the League One side as they ran out 2-1 victors at Villa Park. Ryan Flynn grabbed a spectacular winner as League One relegation battlers Sheffield United dumped a pallid and uninspired Aston Villa out of the FA Cup.
There’s was even enough time for Nicolas Helenius to replace Aleksandar Tonev. It was one of those nights…
From Petrov to Tonev, the Bulgarian pair demonstrated the grim downfall Villa would eventually realise when in 2016, they fell into the second division for the first time in almost 30 years. After the initial failure of getting back into the big time at the first attempt, Sheffield United would make light work of League One, as Chris Wilder embarked on a meteoric rise Yorkshire.
In December of 2017, the two met for the first time to contest a league match since 2007, the first of the decade. Mile Jedinak scored his first Villa goal by adding to Albert Adomah’s opener, which saw Steve Bruce’s side take a 2-0 lead inside ten minutes. Villa were battling with Wilder’s Blades to sneak into a competitive top six place in time for Christmas.
Aussie Jedinak however took the festive spirit too literally as he gifted Clayton Donaldson a chance to half the deficit, which he duly converted by reading a pass back to Sam Johnstone. After the first half an hour or so it was 2-2, with four goals shared between two promotion hopefuls.
It was a real possibility that Sheffield United could emulate just what former Villa boss Lambert had done with Norwich a decade before, taking a club through the leagues in the quickest possible time.
Though, as Villa would play the reverse fixture at Bramall Lane only a month down the line, a late, late Robert Snodgrass worldie propelled Villa up to third in the table, a point away from the automatic places.
“Elmohamady arriving at a rate of nots, uses him by not using him”, as Snodgrass dipped onto his preferred, left side… I’ll let Daniel Mann do the rest.
“He picks out a beauty! A Glorious goal from Robert Snodgrass, to win it surely late on for Villa! A piece of pure inspiration!”
It was a finish that will resonate with Villa fans for many more years to come, as the Scot cemented his fond status at the club.
After losing out at Wembley that same year, Snodgrass would reluctantly move back to the capital along with Lewis Grabban and Sam Johnstone to their respective clubs. John Terry would retire, but his days at Villa wouldn’t end there.
It was a bitter pill to swallow for a Villa side on course for decimation following Tony Xia’s lacklustre and destructive approach. Whilst the club was back on track behind the scenes, on it, Steve Bruce’s days looked numbered.
A 4-1 loss in Sheffield, was for many the opportunity to vent their frustrations at Bruce. He would later suggest that he was still the best candidate for the job, but if new owners Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens fancied a change, Bruce admitted, “so be it”.
Jack O’Connell, Mark Duffy and Oliver Norwood set the Blades on their way to a fourth successive victory at the time, before claiming an automatic promotion place come May.
Before they could clinch second place, Villa would disrupt their course of momentum in February, even if their own season seemed all but over. A Billy Sharp hat-trick was seemingly enough for Sheffield United to take three points away from Villa Park for the first time since England won the World Cup.
Tyrone Mings’ first for Villa was swiftly followed by a Tammy Abraham tap in, after Dean Henderson made a mess of Tommy Elphick’s effort on goal in a frantic eight minutes. It would all collapse on the 94th minute for Wilder’s side who then boasted the third best defensive record in the league’s top three.
It was O’Connell’s mistake and McGinn’s cross to set up GREEEEEEENNN! Another indelible piece of commentary to mark a turning point in Dean Smith’s and Aston Villa’s final Championship season.
Ahead of a first Premier League meeting between these two since 2007, much has changed for the club’s that are both reigning supreme in major cities. Two boyhood fans putting their wits in opposing dugouts, with fans optimistic about a future that will involve Villa and Sheffield United for many Premier league seasons to come.