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The club was founded in 1889 and began at the then cricket ground of Bramall Lane. Indeed, Bramall Lane continued to host cricket until 1973. The '3-sided' ground could then be converted to a normal football stadium with the construction of the south stand (see picture).
The club enjoyed unbroken tenancy of the first division from 1893 to 1934. In that time, they won the FA Cup in 1899, 1902, 1915 and 1925, and were beaten finalists in 1901. They also lost at Wembley in 1935.
Having been relegated to Division 2 in 1948/9, the 1950's started with surely the nearest possible near-miss. Chasing promotion in competition with Sheffield Wednesday in 1949/50 the two teams finished level on points but issues then were settled on Goal Average and Wednesday's average was .008 better than United's meaning that it was the Owls who gained promotion.
United had to wait another three seasons to achieve their goal and were promoted in 1952/3, winning the Division 2 Championship in the process under new manager Reg Freeman. They were relegated three years later under Joe Mercer and despite some excellent giant-killing FA Cup runs towards the end of the decade, they would not play First Division football again in the 1950's. Joe Mercer left to manage Aston Villa midway through the 1958/9 season and was replaced by John Harris the former Chelsea player. United finished third in Division 2 that season and the John Harris era was to bring better times for the Blades.
United challenged for promotion again in 1959/60 finishing fourth but in the following season they succeeded, being promoted as runners up behind Ipswich Town. Their Cup giant killing also continued in that season - they knocked out three First Division teams before losing to a fourth one, Leicester City, in the the semi-final after two replays.
The first half of the 1961/2 season suggested that United's stay in Division 1 would be a brief one as they hovered around the relegation zone. However things improved significantly from December and they finally finished in fifth place. It was a successful season in other ways also - another good Cup run (beaten by Burnley in the 6th round) and a league double over rivals Sheffield Wednesday. The blades won 1-0 at Bramall Lane and 2-1 at Hillsborough with centre forward Derek Pace scoring all three of United's goals.
United spent seven seasons in the First Division, mostly finishing comfortably in mid table, until being relegated by one point in 1967/8. This season also saw the sale of United's two young star strikers (Mick Jones to Leeds and Alan Birchenall to Chelsea) both for £100,000 - record fees at the time.
Prior to the start of the 1968/9 season John Harris moved upstairs to become General Manager and Arthur Rowley was appointed the new team manager. Rowley lasted just one season and John Harris returned to the helm.
The 1970's proved to be a real up and down decade with a promotion, two relegations and a series of managerial changes. In addition Bramall Lane ceased to be a cricket ground and a new stand was built, ending the football ground's three sided appearance.
1969/70 was John Harris's first season back in control. United made a strong challenge for promotion but poor results in the final weeks of the season saw them fail. Promotion came just one year later with Tony Currie and Alan Woodward outstanding in a team which played attractive attacking football. In their penultimate game of the season they beat nearest challengers, Cardiff City 5-1 in an evening game to leave them needing just one point from their final game at home to Watford which they won 3-0.
The following season United initially took the First Division by storm, topping the league until early October and going unbeaten in their first ten games. Their first defeat came away to second place Manchester United but they were unable to maintain this form and had to settle for a mid table finish.
Ken Furphy took over as manager in late 1973. In 1974/5, now two divisions higher than city rivals Sheffield Wednesday, United finished in sixth place, their highest league finish for thirteen years missing a European place by just one league position. Sadly, from this high, United were to hit previously unknown lows.
United never recovered from a disastrous start to the 1975/6 season and despite Ken Furphy being replaced by Jimmy Sirrel in October it was obvious long before the end of the season that relegation was inevitable. This time there was to be no quick return. After two mid table finishes, United were relegated to Division 3 for the first time in their history, joining Sheffield Wednesday.
The 1979/80 campaign started well with United topping the table until halfway through the season. However, not only did their challenge peter out in the second half of the season, but they suffered the ignominy of being beaten 4-0 at Hillsborough by Sheffield Wednesday on Boxing Day 1979 - the widest margin in a Sheffield derby game since United's 7-3 win over Wednesday in the early 1950's.
Harry Haslam had replaced Jimmy Sirrel as manager in 1978 and in 1980 World Cup Winner Martin Peters was brought in as a player coach with the eventual aim being that at an appropriate time, he would replace Haslam as manager. Due to Haslam's illness this came sooner than intended and Peters took over as manager in January 1981. Results for the remainder of the season were disastrous and, to the disbelief of their fans and many others, United were relegated to Division 4 on the last day of the season.
Having reached the lowest point intheir history the rot at last was stopped. A new chairman, businessman Reg Brealey, injected funds into the club and appointed former Sunderland hero Ian Porterfield as manager. Porterfield was initially successful. United won the Fourth Division championship in their first season there (1981/2) two years later they were promoted to the Second Division on goal difference.
Porterfield had been given a long contract in 1981 with the tough target of a Division 1 place in five years. Although United were looking comfortable in Division 2 Porterfield had not achieved his target and in March 1986 Billy McEwan replaced him.
Midway through 1987/8 United found themselves in the relegation zone and after a humiliating 5-0 home defeat to Oldham, McEwan resigned to be replaced by Dave Bassett who had achieved fame by taking Wimbledon from non league to the First Division.
1987/8 was a season when the number of clubs per division was being altered and play-offs were introduced involving both relegation and promotion. United managed to avoid automatic relegation but lost out in the play-offs to Bristol City to find themselves back in Division 3.
In was only a one year stay however. Bassett had a reputation for using the "long ball" style of play and his appointment had been critised by some fans who did not want to see this at Bramall Lane. Whatever the style, success was instant. Bassett had little money to work with but the signing of two new strikers - Brian Deane and Tony Agana - proved to be inspired. They spearheaded United's challenge with thirty goals each and United celebrated their centenary year by finishing runners up behind Wolves.
In 1989/90 Bassett did it again and United achieved their dream returning to Division 1 after a fourteen year absence. They were comfortable in first or second place for most of the season but a "wobble" in April combined with a late surge by third placed Newcastle meant they went to Leicester on the last day needing a win to ensure promotion. They did it in style with a 5-2 win and in effect replaced city neighbours Sheffield Wednesday - relegated the same afternoon - in Division 1.
In their first season back in the top division they looked as though they would go into the record books for all the wrong reasons. They took only four points from their first sixteen games and failed to register a win until beating Nottingham Forest at home on the 22nd December. This started an amazing revival including a run of seven consecutive wins. From being seemingly dead and buried before Christmas they actually finished in a creditable thirteenth place.
After another three seasons hovering around the relegation zone they dropped into Division 2 in 1994. Dave Bassett resigned in December 1995 with United in the Second Division relegation zone. New chairman Mike McDonald appointed Howard Kendall who kept United up and took them to the play-off final the following season where they were beaten by Crystal Palace.
Kendall left the club after this season and United reached the play-off semi finals the following season. At the end of the 1990's Nigel Spackman, Steve Bruce and Adrian Heath all had spells as manager, Heath's stay lasting just nineteen games. He resigned in late 1999 with United looking in danger of relegation to Division 3.
A decade in which United had achieved a lot in the top flight and reach two FA Cup semi-finals was seen to be ending in mediocrity. The man appointed to rectify the situation was Bury manager and lifelong Blades fan Neil Warnock.
2000 - Present Day
Warnock's arrival was followed by an immediate and dramatic improvement in form. Relegation fears receded as a run of good results saw United climb the table. Results fell away somewhat in the latter part of the season and the club finished sixteenth.
The 1990's had seen some boardroom turmoil with many changes and although this had settled down, the board made it clear that financial stabilisation of the club was the immediate priority. This meant that Warnock was in the familiar position of having limited funds available to strengthen the squad.
It was not until 2002/3 that the club were able to mount a serious promotion challenge. In that season United reached the semi-finals of both domestic cup competitions and finished a comfortable third in the league to give them a play-off place. However, the promotion that would have crowned a fine season was not to be as United lost 3-0 to Wolves in the play-off final.
United finished a frustrating eighth in both of the next two seasons but the board kept faith with Neil Warnock despite calls from some fans for a change of manager.
Their patience was rewarded in 2005/6. The team started the season in spectacular fashion winning ten of their first eleven games and leading the divison until late November when Reading pushed them into second place. There they remained for the rest of the season achieving a return to the Premiership after a twelve year absence.
The record attendance for the club was 68,287 against Leeds in 1936.
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