18th November, 2006. A day when a star-studded Manchester United side that included Cristiano Ronaldo, rolled into Bramall Lane.
The Blades, looking to pick up any sort of result against Sir Alex Ferguson’s men, fielded a team with nowhere near the star power on offer as the visitors.
Young midfielder, Nicky Law, was handed a start, while inexperienced striker, Colin Kazim-Richards, tried to lead the line with Blades talisman, Rob Hulse.
For Man United, there was no such issues. Wayne Rooney started up front. Paul Scholes, Rio Ferdinand, and Ryan Giggs also started the game. All in all, it was set up for an easy day at the office for the Red Devils.
Blades XI: Paddy Kenny, Phil Jagielka, Rob Kozluk, Claude Davis, Del Geary, Mikele Leigertwood, Keith Gillespie, Nicky Law, Alan Quinn, Colin Kazim-Richards, Rob Hulse
Man Utd XI: Edwin Van der Sar, Gabriel Heinze, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Gary Neville, Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick, Ryan Giggs, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Louis Saha
Blades nearly spoil the party
Sheffield United started the game well. Despite coming under a barrage of pressure, they defended well and kept Man United at arms length.
Despite the obvious gap in quality, there was reason to be optimistic for United, especially on the break and with set-pieces. Those breakaways proved pivotal, as Keith Gillespie capitalised on Rio Ferdinand failing to clear, to head the Blades into a surprise early lead.
However, as the game wore on, there was a sense of when, and not if, Man U would equalise. Wayne Rooney duly obliged at the Kop end. He netted just before half-time to send the teams in level at the break.
Subsequently, the away side wore Neil Warnock’s team down. Patrice Evra crossed for Rooney to smash in his second and give Sir Alex Ferguson’s men the 2-1 win.
Despite the one-sided display on show, it was a miserable day at the office for Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese star was involved in the game and was dangerous. However, he fluffed his lines on more than one occasion.
He headed against the crossbar from a Giggs cross before seeing a chance from around six yards out pass him by. That wasn’t the worst of it for Ronaldo. He woefully lifted over the crossbar from all of four yards.
His expression said it all as he saw the ball fly into the away fans. What had promised to be a day where Cristiano Ronaldo would show Bramall Lane his true worth, became a bit of a nightmare.
Manchester United might have ran out the winners. However, it was England’s brightest young striker and not the future World Player of the Year, who got the business done.
The Blades will be hoping for a better result – and performance – this time around, especially given Man United’s away record.