FA Cup fourth round: 10 talking points from the weekend action

1) Bellingham’s star quality stands out

Jude Bellingham played within himself at the weekend, part of an under-powered Birmingham performance against Coventry in the match between landlord and tenant at St Andrew’s. With not much in the way of action to talk about, however, the 16-year-old became the subject of post-match chatter, as a possible £30m move to Manchester United looms. The Birmingham manager, Pep Clotet, praised the teen’s character. Mark Robins, however, was even more effusive. “Jude Bellingham is outstanding,” said the Coventry manager. “The power and pace at 16 is there for everybody to see. He’s going to be a top player.” The midfielder might look to previous youthful sensations who made the move to Old Trafford, such as Nick Powell or even Wilfried Zaha, and know that there is no guarantee of continued progress. But at this point, and at such a tender age, it appears the stars are aligning for Bellingham. Paul MacInnes

Match report: Birmingham 0-0 Coventry

2) Kovacic renaissance a credit to Lampard

If the flagship successes of Frank Lampard’s reign tend to be young and British, Mateo Kovacic’s prowess indicates the Chelsea manager is no one-trick pony. Underwhelming under Maurizio Sarri, notable largely for predictable substitutions involving Ross Barkley, the Croat has become a high-energy, high-class playmaker for Lampard. “I watched him last year and I liked him from afar,” said Lampard, who played a part in the decision to buy Kovacic. “It maybe wasn’t the easiest year for him.” It helps that his midfield is less rigid – “I never want it to be absolutely structured” – but Kovacic showed the ability to unlock Hull with a penetrative pass from deep. “I just saw a natural talent in the way that he can take people out of midfield and travel quickly with the ball,” Lampard added. “We have got a really good relationship, he loves to talk about his game and is very intelligent. I love working with him.” Richard Jolly

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Match report: Hull 1-2 Chelsea

Hull v Chelsea

Mateo Kovacic was a dynamic presence in midfield for Chelsea at Hull. Photograph: Clive Mason/Getty Images

3) Parker sees progress in Fulham’s approach to City

Despite a 4-0 shellacking Scott Parker talked up 10-man Fulham for trying to play an expansive style. “I have been in this job for a year and it was one of the proudest I have been of them,” said the manager. “I asked them to show personality and be brave. I saw a team which was committed, putting themselves in positions [to receive the ball] and to show what they are about. It would have been easy to come here, surrender possession, boot the ball far from goal and sit on the edge of your box. When teams play out [as we did] you notice the mistakes you make [which led to two goals]. What people don’t see is when you boot it out, they [City] can get a sequence of 30-40 passes and that leads to goals too. There is a bigger long-term picture for us and that is having bravery and personality. Four-nil is a hefty result but there are big nuggets for me as a coach.” Jamie Jackson

Match report: Manchester City 4-0 Fulham

4) Sharp still has an edge to offer Blades

Billy Sharp is 34 next month. He has not scored since the opening day. But he produced a performance of revved-up, state-of-the-art centre-forward play at the Den, finding interesting spaces and standing out as a luminous presence in a muted game. Sharp has been around for so long it might be assumed his game would be all about the narrow areas close to goal at this stage. Not so here. The run to make space for Mo Besic’s opening goal was a piece of instinctive footballing art. At times Sharp stood on the touchline and let his midfield flood past. It isn’t hard to see why United fans and indeed their manager are so fond of a player who showed here Chris Wilder’s coaching and his eye for unusual movement have been eagerly received. Sharp has another year left on his contract. He looks good for it, a lesson in old dogs taking on new tricks. Barney Ronay

Match report: Millwall 0-2 Sheffield United

5) Browne’s howler anguishes Robinson

“The last thought in my head as a I go to sleep tonight will be ‘what if’,” acknowledged Oxford’s manager, Karl Robinson, after Marcus Browne, his Middlesbrough loanee forward, missed a very presentable chance to book a fifth-round place. “Browny’s such a talent but his finishing is useless.” Such unvarnished honesty is rare among carefully PR tutored Premier League managers but this was a day for candour with both Robinson and Steve Bruce admitting they would have much preferred extra-time and/or penalties to an energy-sapping replay. That match could be worth £500,000 to Oxford but they are chasing promotion and Robinson says his players are “at breaking point”. Bruce, meanwhile, was furious to see his winter break plans ruined. “It was supposed to be a week off,” he said. “But what’s the point if they shove replays in. It’s ridiculous.” Louise Taylor

Match report: Newcastle 0-0 Oxford

6) Boufal needs to build on successful return

When Southampton signed Sofiane Boufal for a then club-record £16m almost four years ago, the attacking midfielder was seen as a coup but the Moroccan has largely flattered to deceive. Boufal spent last season on loan in La Liga with Celta Vigo but stepped off the bench against Spurs on Saturday to rifle in his fifth Southampton goal and his first for 721 days. That equaliser earned Saints a replay and stirred memories of his wonderful solo strikes against West Brom, in October 2017, and Sunderland, a year earlier. Brilliant as those goals were, it is time for Boufal to deliver on a regular basis. “Even if he is not playing from the beginning, I know he can always have a good impact on the game,” said Ralph Hasenhüttl, the Southampton manager. “Sofiane is an important player. If he understands what it is about, working 90 minutes against the ball, I think he would have more chances [to start].” Ben Fisher

Match report: Southampton 1-1 Tottenham

Southampton v Tottenham

Sofiane Boufal fires in Southampton’s equaliser against Tottenham. Photograph: Matt Watson/Southampton FC via Getty Images

7) Belief trumps talent in stirring Shrewsbury fightback

The idea of the FA Cup as “a great leveller” is one of English football’s hoariest cliches, yet at Shrewsbury a veteran central-defensive duo comprising a World Cup finalist and a Champions League winner were given the fright of their lives by a frontline made entirely of lower-league journeymen. Which is no slight whatsoever on Shaun Whalley, Callum Lang and Josh Laurent and Jason Cummings, a quartet who were everything their opponents weren’t: purposeful, precise and supremely unflustered. But Shrewsbury’s comeback demonstrated how abstract notions such as momentum and belief can still trump the hard currency of talent and pedigree. It made for a fantastic second-half spectacle as a gang third-tier attackers ran riot against the likely Premier League champions, capped with a full-on pitch invasion by jubilant home supporters. Try telling them the FA Cup has lost its magic. Alex Hess

Match report: Shrewsbury 2-2 Liverpool

8) Maguire rewards Solskjær’s faith

Of Manchester United’s summer signings, Daniel James has lately struggled and Aaron Wan-Bissaka is a fine defender unsuited to the club’s attacking traditions. Harry Maguire has also been the subject of concern, culpable amid multiple defensive pratfalls. It seems, though, that Ole Gunnar Solskjær cannot bear to be without his captain. While those other signings were rested at Tranmere, Maguire, playing through a torn hip muscle, soldiered on and should draw confidence from his performance. Playing left of a defensive trio allowed him to stride forward in the fashion that made his name at Hull and Leicester. His goal was beautifully struck before it deflected off Peter Clarke. He even got a rest when substituted just past the hour. The formation suggested a way forward for Solskjær and his most trusted lieutenant but tougher tests than this await, starting with Manchester City on Wednesday. John Brewin

Match report: Tranmere 0-6 Manchester United

Tranmere v Manchester United

Harry Maguire celebrates opening the scoring for Manchester United at Tranmere. Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty Images

9) Sullivan and Moyes under pressure to shop for reinforcements

West Ham are in a mess. The recruitment department is in pieces and was further stripped back when Manuel Pellegrini and his director of football, Mario Husillos, were fired last month. Pellegrini and Husillos both used their sons as scouts – they have departed too – and the dysfunction is deeply worrying given that West Ham, who were deservedly dumped out of the FA Cup by 10-man West Brom, need signings before the transfer window shuts on Friday. David Moyes, who has his eye on the Slavia Prague midfielder Tomas Soucek, has made little impact since replacing Pellegrini as West Ham’s manager and was unable to promise there will be much activity this week. David Sullivan, the club’s powerful co-owner, has resumed control of transfer negotiations and is under increasing pressure to get an unbalanced, injury-hit squad out of a hole. Jacob Steinberg

Match report: West Ham 0-1 West Brom

10) We must cherish Silva while we can

In what was the most routine of wins for Manchester City, where few forced themselves out of second gear to thrash the 10 men of Fulham, David Silva reminded the country of his greatness. The Spanish magician is leaving the Premier League at the end of the season, drawing the curtains on a decade in England. Since his arrival from Valencia he has arguably been the best player in those 10 years but his powers looked to be waning this season, not a surprise for someone who turned 34 this month. Sunday, however, was another masterclass of skill, passing and intelligent running. Silva also showed his aggressive side to win the ball for Gabriel Jesus’s first goal, proving he still has the desire. We only have him for a few more months of Silva, so we should cherish him before he departs for the final chapter of his career. Will Unwin


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