LONDON (Reuters) – The Premier League took a weekend off but the FA Cup fourth-round served up plenty of shocks while Manchester United continued their resurgence under Old Gunnar Solskjaer.
Here are five talking points from the weekend.
When Old Gunnar Solskjaer was made interim manager at Manchester United in the wake of Jose Mourinho’s sacking, few seriously saw the club’s former Norwegian striker as a serious candidate be given the job on a long-term basis.
However, after Friday’s exhilarating 3-1 defeat of Arsenal in the FA Cup extended United’s winning run since Solskjaer took over to eight matches in all competitions, that must now be a serious consideration.
It is not just the string of wins that is so impressive, it is the joie de vivre that has swept the squad since Solskjaer rekindled the attacking flair the club prides itself on.
Some questioned whether he would have the authority to deal with the club’s big egos. Instead, Paul Pogba has started to live up to his reputation as a marauding midfielder and on Friday even Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez, who have struggled for form, looked world class.
If the run continues, the clamour for Solskjaer to be retained will grow louder by the week.
WHOSAIDTHE FA CUPWASDEAD?
The FA Cup’s prestige has been eroded in recent times, but this season has proved the magic still remains.
AFC Wimbledon, bottom of England’s third tier, capped a dramatic Saturday when they beat Premier League West Ham United 4-2, having at one stage led 3-0.
That followed second-tier Millwall’s 3-2 defeat of Everton, having twice trailed, and Shrewsbury Town’s 2-2 draw at home with their more illustrious local rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers in which they conceded a stoppage-time equaliser.
Of the 20 Premier League clubs that started off in round three, only seven will be in Monday’s draw for round five and with Wolves and Brighton and Hove Albion facing replays, that number could be as low as five.
The problems are piling up on Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino — the man considered the most likely candidate to become Manchester United’s next full-time boss.
The Argentine’s reputation has soared since he arrived in England, establishing Tottenham in the Premier League’s top-four on a fraction of the transfer budget of his rivals.
They are again well-placed in the league but a League Cup semi-final defeat on penalties by Chelsea was followed on Sunday by a limp 2-0 FA Cup exit at Crystal Palace.
“The most important thing for Tottenham right now is to always be in the top four,” he said after defeat at Palace.
If that is the case then the next three league games, all at home, are of vital importance if they are to stay clear of Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal.
VARAGAIN IN THESPOTLIGHT
The video assistant referee (VAR) system has caused its share of controversy but on Saturday at Millwall it was the absence of the technology that infuriated Everton.
While FA Cup ties at Premier League grounds have used VAR this season, ties at lower division clubs such as Millwall have not been equipped for it.
Jake Cooper’s second equaliser for Millwall clearly went in off his arm, but referee Michael Oliver was unsighted and with no VAR to consult the goal stood — even though fans saw a replay of the goal on the stadium’s video screens.
“If the competition has VAR for some stadiums then it has to have it in all,” Everton boss Marco Silva said.
HIGUAIN’S TIMELYARRIVAL AT CHELSEA
Gonzalo Higuain’s arrival at Stamford Bridge on loan from Juventus might prove to be a masterstroke.
Maurizio Sarri’s side are the lowest scorers in the Premier League’s top six by six goals, and if they are to finish in the top four Higuain could play a key role.
He made a low-key debut against Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup on Sunday and will need a few weeks to get up to speed but is a proven goalscorer with the physical capabilities to give Chelsea’s attack an upgrade on Alvaro Morata.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)