Back in 2013, then new Blades manager, David Weir, was all set for a crack at promotion with midfielder Kevin McDonald leading the charge, until this weekend’s opponents Wolves stepped in.
McDonald had developed into the key man for Sheffield United the two seasons prior. Alongside the likes of Stephen Quinn and Lee Williamson in midfield, he was key in Ched Evans scoring over 30 goals in the 2011/12 campaign.
However, an injury in the play-off semi-final in 2012/13 cost McDonald a spot in the first XI at Wembley. A long 120 minutes and a miserable penalty shootout later against Huddersfield, and the Blades were condemned to League One football once more.
A change in manager that next summer saw McDonald become the focal point for United. New gaffer, David Weir, moved him further up the pitch.
His pre-season form caught the eye. McDonald had been running games for United. He got himself off to
the perfect start too, scoring in a 2-1 home win against Notts County. That joy for Blades fans at seeing McDonald so dominant, didn’t last long though.
Wolves make their move
With not even two weeks of the season gone, Wolves tempted the Blades into selling Kevin McDonald. A fee in the region of £750,000 was agreed, and McDonald was swiftly on his way to the title favourites.
The move represented a bitter blow for Weir and United. After spending all summer building a team around one player, their plans were now in tatters. The sale coincided with a miserable run of form for the Blades, too.
A shocking set of results that included home losses to MK Dons and Preston, as well as draws with the likes of Colchester United and Crawley Town, saw Weir lose his job in November. Nigel Clough stepped into the fold in his place.
McDonald ploughs on with Wolves
Away from Bramall Lane, Kevin McDonald became the focal point of a Wolves team who were far too good for the third tier. He pulled the strings in the middle, allowing flair players like Nouha Dicko, Leigh Griffiths, and Bakary Sako to make their mark up top.
Indeed, Wolves romped to the title that season. They amassed a whopping 103 points to see of everyone else. Wolves lost only five times the entire season. Coincidentally, they saw off the Blades with ease twice, winning 2-0 both at Molineux and Bramall Lane.
And it was McDonald who was the glue that held it all together for Wolves.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. How things might have been is open to debate. Would David Weir have still failed? Would United have struggled as much with McDonald?
There can be little doubt, however, that losing Kevin McDonald to Wolves was a bitter blow for the Blades. Another three years in League One followed, while Wolves clambered back into the Premier League.
On a personal level, McDonald went on to help Fulham win promotion to the Premier League after helping Wolves secure their status in the second tier.
Much like the Blades’ current midfield maestro, Ollie Norwood, McDonald seems to be adept at excelling in the Championship.
There’s little wonder, then, that the Blades struggled so much following the sale of just one player back in 2013.