PAUL LAMBERT may not, as the cliche goes, be “up for the Cup” this year.
But Matt Lowton most definitely is, after the third-round draw handed the full-back a reunion with his former club.
The 24-year-old came through the youth set-up at Bramall Lane before moving to Villa Park in a £3m deal following United’s play-off final defeat to Huddersfield Town on penalties at Wembley.
So, today offers a chance to not only meet up with a few of his former Blades team-mates but also, Lowton insists, get Villa Park “rocking” in a similar fashion to last season when the Midlands outfit reached the semi-final of the Capital One Cup.
“We did it last year in the other cup,” said Lowton of a run that ended when Bradford City came to Villa Park for a semi-final second leg that was played amid a raucous and passionate atmosphere.
“There is no reason why we can’t do the same now. We can have a great cup run and get the fans going.
“I remember the semi-final at Villa Park last season (against Bradford) and it was rocking. The atmosphere was unbelievable.
“You see how much it means to them to have a good cup run and hopefully we can start by getting into the next round (by beating the Blades.
“It is a great opportunity to get a win at home in front of our fans. A good chance to give them something to cheer about.”
Villa have had a season of contrasts so far with some memorable victories – such as the opening day triumph at Arsenal and a 3-2 win over Manchester City – intermixed with defeats against the likes of Fulham and Crystal Palace.
Both those reverses came last month, which is why Lambert is so focused on the fight for league points right now.
The Villa chief said ahead of United’s visit: “I probably don’t buy into the ‘great cup run’. If you are in it, you may as well try to win it – which we didn’t do.
“We got knocked out in the semi-final. So, we may as well have got knocked out in the first round.”
Asked whether this weekend’s fixtures are something the top-flight clubs could do without, Lambert added: “If they were being honest, they probably would (say so). It is realistic, that is the nature of it.
“If anyone says any differently then I am not so sure they will be telling the truth because the Premier League is the most vital thing that anyone wants to get into and we are no different.”
For Chesterfield-born Lowton, though, today will be all about taking on his old club and, he hopes, getting through to tomorrow’s fourth-round draw.
He said: “We were on the way back from an away game (during the third-round draw) and I got a phone call from my brother.
“He was laughing when I answered so I thought it must have been a tasty draw. I had to smile.
“For personal reasons, the club is very close to my heart and it is good to play them in a massive cup game.
“I still speak to a few of the boys who were there when I was and I am looking forward to getting out there.”
For Villa, captain Ron Vlaar (calf) could be replaced by Ciaran Clark as Lambert considers making changes.