The FA Cup’s name might have been dragged through the mud in recent years, but the magic of the cup is still in good condition given what took place over the weekend.
Here are five things that took place in the FA Cup Third Round:
Nottingham Forest shame reigning champions Arsenal
The FA Cup has still got its sparkle as Championship side Nottingham Forest crushed the Gunners at home in what will be one of their greatest performances in recent history.
It was embarrassing to watch Arsène Wenger’s team play with such a meek and feeble attitude – constantly getting beaten to the ball and sloppy passes all over the pitch. There is no wonder that Forest punished them given the amount of times they were put through on goal by Arsenal.
Such a limp performance deserved to be knocked out of the Third Round for the first time since 1996. It was clear that Wenger underestimated Forest and he got his comeuppance from it.
Rob Holding made of a comedy of errors which allowed Forest to get into dangerous areas of the pitch, including when the Englishman gave away a Forest’s first penalty with an incredibly lazy and untimely lunge on the forward.
Arsenal embarrassed themselves and are now, once again, coming into February with very little to play for. They might have the Europa League, but it will not be as easy to win as it was for Manchester United – there are very good teams still in the competition.
Forest deserve all the credit they get, it was a wonderful performance and one that will stand them in good stead for whoever they draw for the Fourth Round.
Jesse Lingard is playing at the peak of his powers
It has been a common sight to see Jesse Lingard save Manchester United this season with a goal that is of great importance. Once again, this time against Derby County, the England international fires a thunderbolt into the back of Scott Carson’s net.
Manchester United were struggling to create anything of note, but Lingard took that into his own hands by waltzing past the on-looking defenders, create space for himself and fire the ball past the flailing goalkeeper.
Lingard has improved hugely this season and has been one of José Mourinho’s standout players for the Red Devils. He might have been a late developer, but he is in full swing now and there is very little that can stop him when in this kind of form.
Mark Hughes was deserving of the sack
It is not surprise that Stoke took the plunge and relieved Mark Hughes of his duties given the terrible form the Potters have been in for the past 12 months.
Yet again, Stoke were abysmal throughout the game against Coventry, who took their chances when they appeared and delivered the final punch to Hughes’ managerial career at the Bet365 stadium.
Stoke might have dominated with 70% possession, but that is rather meaningless when you only have two more shots on-target than a team who had the remaining 30%. The Potters never looked truly threatening in front of goal and wasted ahead of chances throughout the 90 minutes.
It is telling that Stoke managed six shots on-target after recording 29 shots. An atrocious performance from Stoke’s attackers cost the club the game, but also the manager’s position.
Stoke are due to improve in their performances given a new manager is likely to come in now and the players will be eager to impress. But if they are not careful, a drop into the Championship is very much on the cards.
Virgil van Dijk makes a good first impression
There are not many things better than a footballer striking gold on his debut and scoring for his new club. Not only did Virgil van Dijk do that, but he also scored the winning goal in the Merseyside derby in front of the famous Kop.
A quite miraculous opening game for the Dutchman ended in Liverpool progressing into the fourth round of the Cup and in high spirits. The weekend might have been watered down somewhat after fans learned that Philippe Coutinho had signed for Barcelona, but it could have been a lot worse if Liverpool failed to win the game.
Van Dijk played well throughout the game, but obviously his debut will be rightly remembered for leading the Reds into the fourth round with a bullet header in the closing minutes. He has certainly set the right impression from the off, and Liverpool fans will be hoping it continues for the rest of the season and so forth.
Goal of the Weekend:
This has to go to Nottingham Forest’s Eric Lichaj, who scored an absolute scorcher against Arsenal to take the game away from them and increase his team’s lead.
As the ball is headed to the edge of the area by Holding, it falls perfectly into the path of Lichaj, The American chests it down with sensational composure and volleys the ball precisely into the top corner of David Ospina’s net.
There was no stopping Licaj’s perfectly-timed volley nestling into the top corner.