FA Cup history, key players, manager & form ahead of Man City semi-final

In the 1969 FA Cup final, Glyn Pardoe lined up alongside his long-serving teammate Mike Doyle in Manchester City’s backline.

The pair presided over a clean sheet while Neil Young (not that one) scored the only goal of the showpiece against Leicester City. Half a century later, Pardoe and Doyle would indirectly dovetail for another slice of FA Cup history.

Pardoe’s daughter Charlotte, who married Doyle’s son Scott, gave birth to little Tommy in October 2001. Tommy Glyn Doyle – carrying the name of both grandparents – came off the bench for Sheffield United in this season’s FA Cup quarter-finals to wallop a ripsnorting stoppage-time winner against Blackburn Rovers, sending the Blades into a semi-final tie against none other than Manchester City, his grandparents’ team.

City is technically Tommy’s team as well, joining Sheffield United on loan last summer. The youngest Doyle may not get a chance to honour the memory of his elders – who have both passed away – at Wembley Stadium this Saturday, but his teammates will pick up the baton in his absence.

Here’s everything you need to know about Sheffield United ahead of an ominous clash against the reigning Premier League champions.

Since videos of his skills were circulated during his teenage years, Iliman Ndiaye has been a local celebrity. There was a fear he wouldn’t progress beyond that status when he was forced to enter the English football pyramid with Boreham Wood in the fifth tier but Ndiaye has blossomed across his last two seasons in Sheffield.

The Senegal international is United’s leading scorer this term, with 14 goals across all competitions – including the match-winner against Tottenham in the FA Cup fifth round. Ollie McBurnie is close behind with 13 goals but has been rotated with club icon Billy Sharp when only one out-and-out striker is needed in the 3-4-2-1 system that has been deployed in recent weeks.

Centre-back John Egan is scarcely given a second’s rest, racking up more than 4,000 minutes of action this season. First-choice goalkeeper Wes Foderingham has been forced into a spell on the sidelines after earning a second red card of the season against Burnley earlier this month but will be available for selection for the semi-final.

Much like Doyle, United’s ephemeral attacking midfielder James McAtee is a Manchester City loanee and will not be involved on Saturday against his parent club. McAtee had been the only Sheffield United player to start all five of the club’s FA Cup ties this season.

Paul Heckingbottom’s first spell in charge of Sheffield United also included an FA Cup quarter-final. The Blades lost 2-0 to Chelsea, one of eight defeats the club suffered in the 11 matches of Heckingbottom’s interim tenure back in 2021.

However, after an ill-fated five months in the Championship with Slavisa Jokanovic, the powers that be at Bramall Lane turned to Heckingbottom again in November 2021. Yorkshire’s Sports Hero of 2016 led United into the playoffs last season, only to become the latest iteration of the Blades to lose at this stage of their promotion bid.

Heckingbottom, who boasts a Master’s degree in Sports Coaching, has exploited the loan market to take Sheffield United to the brink of promotion once again this term. The Blades exceeded last season’s points tally of 75 with six games of the current campaign to play and are on the cusp of avoiding those pesky playoffs altogether as they lie second, behind already-promoted Burnley.

The Blades come into the semi-finals in decent, if not devastating form – unlike opponents Manchester City. Sheffield United’s last outing away from home was a 2-0 reverse against league-leading Burnley – although that match was warped by a 16th-minute red card for Blades goalkeeper Foderingham.

Heckingbottom had guided his side to three consecutive away wins prior to their trip to Turf Moor and no Championship team has won more games on the road this season (11) than Sheffield United.

However, the club’s most-recent FA Cup tie away from Bramall Lane was not so serene.

Sheffield United may have only faced one Premier League side en route to the semi-finals – and that was a damningly under-strength Tottenham team – but it has been far from a stroll to make it to Wembley.

After dispatching fellow Championship promotion hopefuls Millwall at The Den in the third round, Sheffield United duked out arguably the tie of the season against non-league Wrexham.

The Blades took the lead twice up on their trip to the newly-monied South Wales outfit. However, Wrexham responded each time before taking the lead through Paul Mullin in the 86th minute. Just as Ryan Reynolds was scheduling his slew of interviews ahead of a fifth-round tie, Egan equalised for the ten men of Sheffield United with mere seconds of added time remaining.

It took stoppage-time goals from Sharp and Sander Berge to eventually knockout out the fifth-tier opposition in the replay at Bramall Lane.

Tottenham may be at the other end of the footballing pyramid but didn’t give Sheffield United anywhere near as many problems. While Antonio Conte was still at the helm in north London, a rotated Spurs side couldn’t find a way past Foderingham before Ndiaye netted the only goal.

United’s quarter-final against Blackburn was almost as exhilarating as the club’s fourth-round thriller against Wrexham. This time it was United that twice fell behind, only to rally each time before Doyle struck that historic winner.

As one of the oldest football clubs still in existence, Sheffield United have a long history with the FA Cup. The club’s first triumph in the competition came in the last year of the 19th century. As one of the best teams in the country of the era, the Blades reached three out of four finals between 1899 and 1902, winning twice.

Sheffield United also won the last FA Cup held before the competition was suspended for the First World War, beating Chelsea 3-0 at Old Trafford in 1915. The club won its last title ten years later and haven’t reached a final since 1936 when they lost to Arsenal as a second-tier team.

In the subsequent 87 years, only eight teams outside England’s top flight have ever reached the FA Cup final – United are aiming to become the first since Cardiff City lost to Portsmouth in 2008.