As he sat huddled under a blanket Konstantinos Mitroglu, Fulham's new £12m signing from Greece, must have reached for his programme to check which was the team he had joined. To his probable dismay it was the team in white. Mitroglu was the jewel of the six signings made by Rene Mulensteen on deadline day but after this latest humbling there must be a doubt as to how long he will be given to blend his new recruits into a team.
Sheffield United were organized off the ball, tidy on it, and worked like Trojans, but they are in League One's relegation zone. Yet in 120 minutes Premier League Fulham failed to break them down. And in the last of those minutes the outstanding Blades centre-half Harry Maguire headed a corner back across goal and substitute Shaun Miller, left free after his marker Clint Dempsey went walkabout, headed in.
Sheffield United thus progressed to a fifth round tie at home to Preston or Nottingham Forest, who meet at Deepdale tomorrow night. While they celebrated with their loud and joyous fans Fulham left to another chorus of deserved boos for the second time in four days.
The first of those followed Saturday's 3-0 home defeat by Southampton which left Fulham bottom of the top flight. Next up are Manchester United, away. Mulensteen only left their coaching staff in June, doing so with a parting shot at David Moyes for releasing Alex Ferguson's staff. It is fair to say while Moyes' start has not gone to plan Mulensteen's work at Fulham is not making much of a case for his absence from Carrington being the reason.
The Dutchman made eight changes to Saturday's XI, presumably to rest players for the relegation battle though he could also have been punishing them. Nigel Clough, also with a relegation battle to wage but with fewer alternatives, made four changes from the United side drubbed 3-0 at Crewe.
Unsurprisingly the Blades initially looked more cohesive and, bouyed by a Jamie Murphy shot which skidded just wide, started the brighter. Gradually, however, Fulham began to dominate possession but this was in part because United sat off them and the home team never worried Mark Howard in the Sheffield goal.
The second period also began promisingly, Bob Harris shooting over twice in quick succession, but the game soon disintegrated so badly the next incident of note was the replacement, on the hour, of Hugo Rodallega who was clearly unimpressed at being singled out. He could justifiably have argued the service was the problem, not the strikers. Patjim Kasami moved to lead the line, a thankless task given the poverty of imagination behind him.
There was subsequently much huffing and puffing but a further 30 minutes' punishment for spectators by now battered by cold, rain and wind, was inevitable. To think Dimitar Bebatov gave this up to live in Monaco, what was he thinking? During the added 30 minutes John Brayford stretched David Stockdale after a powerful run and Kasami twice fizzed shots just wide, but penalties seemed odds-on when Miller stooped to conquer.
Man of the match Maguire.
Match rating 2/10.
Referee N Swarbrick (Lancs).
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