QPR 0 Sheffield United 3 match verdict: FA Cup joy as Blades claim fifth Premier League scalp

United's first goal celebration
United's first goal celebration

Louis van Gaal would describe this as a death or gladioli tie.

For Sheffield United, 34 places and two divisions below their opponents on the footballing pyramid, it was all about guts. And glory.

Two goals from Jamal Campbell-Ryce after Marc McNulty had opened the scoring saw last season’s FA Cup semi-finalists reach the fourth round of this term’s competition with yet another famous victory over a Premier League side.

But United did not spent 90 minutes fighting a desperate rearguard action. Queens Park Rangers, as their manager, Harry Redknapp, later acknowledged, were second best for much of the afternoon.

“We’ve told the lads in the dressing room to remember these moments,” Chris Morgan, United’s first-team coach, said. “And that what they’ve just produced out there shows the potential they have within their ranks.

“It should do wonders for their self-belief. It should show them what they are capable of when they really set their minds to it, how far they can go and what they can achieve.”

There is something about knockout football that stokes fire in the bellies of Nigel Clough’s United side.

Although their quest for Championship football has stuttered of late, the 48-year-old’s players entered yesterday’s fixture hoping to claim their fifth top-flight scalp of his 16-month reign and preparing for a Capital One Cup semi-final against Tottenham Hotspur.

West Ham and Southampton are among the teams beaten by United en route to this month’s meeting with Redknapp’s former employers. Rangers went the same way as Clough’s players, enjoying the type of freedom they are seldom afforded in League One, mixed graft with guile.

“Make no mistake, QPR wanted to win that game,” Morgan said. “You could see that with the people they were bringing on. Big, experienced names.

“That showed us respect and we knew we had to show them exactly the same.”

“People always ask how we can get these results and then not beat people like Port Vale and Fleetwood Town,” Morgan continued. “First of all, I think that’s a little disrespectful to some of the teams at our level, but it’s also got a lot to do with how sides set up against us.

“We ask the same questions, though. And, whatever you think the answer is, our challenge now is to replicate these cup performances in the league.”

Embroiled in a battle for Premier League survival, Redknapp made seven changes to the starting 11 which had drawn with Swansea City 72 hours earlier. Nevertheless, despite rotating his disposal, the Rangers manager nevertheless selected a squad boasting a combined total of 195 international caps and worth an estimated £50 million.

United made five with Terry Kennedy and Louis Reed among those handed starts.

It proved an inspired move with the youngsters, both graduates of the club’s Redtooth Academy, producing hugely impressive displays.

Reed, aged 17, was arguably the most accomplished and mature player on the pitch. Kennedy, four years his colleague’s senior, has seen his progress hampered by a series of knee complaints in recent seasons but was both effective and brave against the likes of Bobby Zamora.

READ MORE: Sheffield United - A year of cup shocks

“Terry has had a lot of setbacks,” Morgan said. “But he’s always had the heart of a lion. We saw that again out there.

“Louis is all about the pass but there were times when he was throwing himself in front of the ball and that’s how you get these wins, by putting it all on the line and being ready to give your all.”

The first ever meeting between Rangers and United took place in the FA Cup 92 years ago.

Then languishing in midtable of the old Third Division South, Rangers had entered that match in the shadow of a team which, less than 24 months later, would lift the famous trophy for a fourth time.

Although Rangers have yet to break their duck, yesterday’s contest was very much a case of roles reversed, with the QPR wage bill recently estimated to be bigger than those at both Borussia Dortmund and Atletico Madrid.

United, now sixth in League One, must make do on more meagre resources.

Nevertheless, despite some chequered results of late, they have fashioned a more than capable team, as Rangers discovered during the opening exchanges.

Although Mark Howard did well to parry Leroy Fer’s near post shot away to safety almost straight from kick-off, United created several promising opportunities of their own, with Campbell-Ryce, troubling both Steven Caulker and Rio Ferdinand with his pace, a particular threat for the visitors.

Stefan Scougall blazed a first-time effort just over the crossbar following a deft piece of skill from the London-born winger before McNulty scooped wide after Campbell-Ryce made inroads again.

Ferdinand used his superior strength to outmuscle Scougall as the pair hunted down a long ball forward from Bob Harris. Rangers had their moments, with Jay McEveley and Kennedy, preferred to Harrison McGahey at centre-half, both blocking Fer howitzers.

But Redknapp had no complaints when, nine minutes before the interval, McNulty edged United ahead following Reed’s perfectly-weighted, defence-splitting pass.

“They deserved their win,” Redknapp said afterwards. “There were a few words spoken in our dresssing room both at half and full-time but full respect to Sheffield United because they played well.

“Look at their record. They went to the semi-finals last season, and they’ve just beaten Southampton too.

“That doesn’t happen by accident. Forget where they are. Sheffield United are clearly a good team.”

Provider appeared to have turned poacher soon after when Reed converted Scougall’s pass but saw his celebrations cut short by an assistant referee’s flag.

Rangers’ decision to introduce Zamora at the beginning of the second half was the best illustration of how events had so far unfolded. But he had barely broken sweat when Campbell-Ryce doubled United’s advantage.

Again, Reed was involved, this time delivering the 50th-minute corner which Jordam Mutch miscontrolled into the former Jamaica winger’s path.

With an increasing sense of urgency already creeping into Rangers’ play - Zamora glancing a header wide following Campbell-Ryce’s intervention - Reed demonstrated another side to his game by bravely placing himself between Howard’s goal and Karl Henry’s shot.

United, though, continued to press, with Jose Baxter tripped by Nedum Onuoha as he launched an counter-attack and Ferdinand racing back to thwart McNulty before Campbell-Ryce scored his second of the afternoon and United’s third during the closing stages.

“Who do we want now? We don’t really mind but ideally we’d like to be at home,” Morgan said.

“But the main focus right now is Preston (North End) coming up on Saturday because, whoever we are drawn against, that is an equally, if not more, important game.”

QUEENS PARK RANGERS: McCarthy 6, Traore 6, Caulker*** 6, Ferdinand 7, Phillips 7, Austin 6, Fer 7, Onuoha 6, Mutch 6, Henry** 6, Hoilett* 6. Substitutes: Murphy, Hill, Isla***(61) 6, Vargas**(61) 6, Zamora*(46) 6, Furlong, Grego-Cox.

SHEFFIELD UNITED: Howard 7, Harris 7, Flynn 7, Doyle*** 7, Scougall 7, Baxter** 8, McNulty* 8, McEveley 8, Campbell-Ryce 8, Reed 8, Kennedy 8. Substitutes: Turner, Alcock, J Wallace**(89), Murphy*(82), McGahey, Higdon***(90), Dimaio.

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