Tottenham were banned from the FA Cup by Championship rivals for the second year running after Iliman Ndiaye sacked Sheffield United to win 1-0 in the fifth round at Bramall Lane.
Exactly one year ago, since being beaten by the same scoreline at Middlesbrough, Spurs again succumbed to a lower division side after a poor performance in South Yorkshire.
After starting Harry Kane on the bench, they were losing to opener Ndiaye in the 79th minute and could not find their way back into the game.
Asked if he regretted putting Kane on the bench, assistant head coach Cristian Stellini said: “It’s not a regret. We have to look at the average period, we have a lot of matches. Harry Kane has played in the last six games, sometimes with a fever, sometimes with a problem, we have to take care of our best player. It’s not about Harry because we played with Richarlison, Lucas Moura and Sonny. I think playing in this competition and against a team like this is good enough.
The Spurs trophy will now last more than 15 years and they have been knocked out of the country’s premier cup at the fifth round stage for the fourth consecutive year.
With Antonio Conte still out of the country as he recovers from gallbladder surgery, the manager will escape some of the criticism for this setback, but with his future still up in the air, pressure is mounting ahead of the crisis period in the Premier League and Champions League.
It was a great night for the Blades, who reached the bottom eight for the third time in four years and are now one win away from Wembley to complete their Championship campaign.
The fixture had all the hallmarks of that night at Teesside for the Spurs, but they decided to leave Kane on the bench nonetheless.
The Spurs have been notoriously slow starts this season, and that was the case again in the largely forgotten opening 20 minutes.
Lucas Moura, who started for the first time since November, wasted a good opening when a stray Sheffield United pass played for him, but after driving into the box he lingered and could not find a player.
Spurs’ dominance began to increase and Richarlison, starting as number nine, had a good chance but scored while Moura saw a missed cross bounce off the crossbar.
For all their control, the Premier League side should have come into play after the break.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg headed back to goalkeeper Fraser Forster and Ismaila Coulibaly squeezed in, but when Billy Sharp screamed for a square pass, he sent a shot into the side netting.
The Spurs started the second half on purpose with Ivan Perisic glancing for a corner while Son Heung-min could not find the net after creating space on the edge of the penalty area.
However, they could not keep up the momentum and the hosts started to come more into the game.
Even Kane’s introduction didn’t help Spurs regain their verve as Pedro Porro curled wide after Hojbjerg’s long ball sent him off.
As the second half progressed, it seemed more obvious how the game would play out, and it did with 11 minutes left.
Some sloppy saves against Sanchez and Porro allowed Ndiaye to swerve inside the penalty area, and he fired a low shot into the near post, which did not bring much glory to Forster.
Tottenham had to wait until the end of injury time to take advantage of the chance to draw in injury time, but Kane inexplicably headed Perisic’s cross and United saw through.
Full FA Cup quarter-final draw
Man City versus Burnley
Man Utd versus Fulham
Brighton versus Grimsby
Sheffield United vs Blackburn
Key dates for the FA Cup
- The quarter-finals will be played on the weekend of March 18 and 19
- Semi-finals – will be played on the weekend of April 22 and 23
- Final – Saturday, June 3
Saturday March 4 12:00
Start at 12:30
Sheffield United they are back in contention for the championship when they visit Blackburn on Saturday at 12.30pm, live Sky Sports Football.
Wolf hosts Tottenham in Molineux in the Premier League on Saturday at 15:00.