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

1) Humans make mockery of VAR

There was a grim moment towards the end at the Amex Stadium as Fabinho propelled his right foot through the back of Evan Ferguson’s leg, crunching his achilles. Ferguson stayed down in genuine pain, before eventually limping off. Fabinho knew instantly it was a horrible tackle and looked genuinely ashamed. Jordan Henderson knew it was a horrible tackle, apologising to the Brighton players and shaking his head. And yet the referee David Coote, somehow, didn’t. Neil Swarbrick, the VAR, also thought it was, you know, probably fine. Presumably this is an extension of the diktat about not re-reffing the game, allowing the initial view to stand if the on-field referee saw it clearly. But it is also the kind of mistake that discredits the entire fussicky, delay-ridden video system. Fabinho got a yellow that should have been a red, and a good red, the kind of red that discourages dangerous play. Don’t blame the robots. Humans are, as ever, the problem here. It is to be hoped Ferguson is not badly injured. Barney Ronay

2) Wrexham fall just short

This was not an easy weekend to be an underdog. No giants were killed, unless you count Arsenal. Plucky little Liverpool thought they’d got a replay at Brighton until Kaoru Mitoma finished them off. The lowliest club left in the fourth round, Wrexham, were handed an instant reality check by Sheffield United, 71 places higher up the pyramid. Ryan Reynolds’ boys were a goal down after two minutes and two centre-backs down after ten. But had it not been for those cruel blows, James Jones wouldn’t have been on hand to hook in an equaliser five minutes after half-time. That moment transformed the occasion from a muted mismatch to a rollicking rollercoaster, with Wrexham taking the lead, Ollie Norwood making it 2-2, a red card acting as a further leveller, and Wrexham scoring a third, for the fourth round running – only to let their guard down in the 95th minute. As Sunday teatime entertainment, it was superb. Tim de Lisle

Paul Mullin scores for Wrexham
Paul Mullin scored what looked to be the winner for Wrexham, but there was still time for Sheffield United to strike back. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images

3) Weghorst out to prove worth

When Wout Weghorst walked out at Old Trafford for his Manchester United home debut, he offered a smile of excitement and the air of a man who feels he belongs. The striker – and everyone in football – was surprised when he joined United on loan, but he is desperate to show he deserves to be at the club. United’s profligacy showed in the first half and Erik ten Hag will want to find a permanent No 9 in the summer to help push his team forward. What Weghorst does offer, however, is an incredible work ethic. The Dutch international chased down every lost cause and would have had an assist if not for VAR ruling out Marcus Rashford’s header. He might not be the long-term solution at Old Trafford, but he will not let anyone down during his loan spell. Will Unwin

4) A big finale to come for Son?

Post-victory, the delight with which Son Heung-min greeted his two goals had a dash of relief. When the southern Lilywhites kicked off at the home of the northern iteration, Tottenham’s No 7 had only six for the season with February beckoning. By the close at Deepdale, Son had rediscovered his shooting boots, Preston were knocked out of the FA Cup and brighter days could be anticipated. Eight goals in 27 appearances is still a paltry return for the 30-year-old who is the Premier League’s (joint) Golden Boot holder: 23 was the South Korean’s count to claim that honour and he currently has only four in the competition. The good news is that there are 17 matches left, so Son’s show in Lancashire may kickstart a late surge. Jamie Jackson

Son Heung-min found his best form at Deepdale, scoring two goals to eliminate Preston.
Son Heung-min found his best form at Deepdale, scoring two goals to eliminate Preston. Photograph: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

5) Evans anger highlights inequality

And so re-opens the debate over fairness when video technology is used inconsistently within the same competition. Stevenage trailed 2-1 when Jonathan Tomkinson conceded a penalty for what appeared to be a clean tackle on Jacob Brown. Referee David Webb decided otherwise. And after that, no matter the strength of Stevenage’s protestations, little could be done. Their manager Steve Evans opted out of post-match written media duties but suggested to the club’s in-house team that Howard Webb, PGMOL’s chief referring officer, ought to give him a call. But it might have. And that is the point: how can, for example, fellow Championship side Reading get a reprieve at Old Trafford when Marcus Rashford’s goal was disallowed, yet Stevenage miss out because the bet365 Stadium is not suitably equipped? Sam Dalling

6) Diallo shows top-tier quality

Sunderland fans were singing about Amad Diallo when they left Putney Bridge station and made their way to Craven Cottage. It soon became clear why they are so enamoured with the Ivorian forward. Diallo was a delight to watch during their 1-1 draw with Fulham. On loan from Manchester United, the 20-year-old started in the No 10 position and caused plenty of problems with his dribbling, movement and clever passing, not to mention his silky combinations with Patrick Roberts. If there was a disappointment, though, it was that Diallo could not quite make a lasting impact in the final third. He produced a tentative finish following good work from Roberts during the first half and was denied on two occasions by Marek Rodak after half-time. It meant that a young Sunderland team could not build on their early lead and Fulham would eventually draw level. That said, Diallo certainly appears to have a big future. Jacob Steinberg

7) Maddison shines on Foxes return

Arguably one of the most significant aspects of Leicester’s victory at Walsall was the welcome return of James Maddison. The England midfielder made his first start since the World Cup after recovering from his most recent knee injury. The 26-year-old was unsurprisingly rusty and his appearance was more notable for his verbal jousts with Robbie Willmott after an early challenge angered Maddison. He was given 63 minutes and his spiky antics riled the home fans, but there is no doubt his return is a huge boost for Brendan Rodgers. Leicester have missed his creativity and end product, with Maddison scoring seven goals this season. A return of one point from the last five league matches, all without Maddison in the side, tells its own story. His availability should enable Leicester to climb away from the relegation zone and could also spark another deep run in the FA Cup for the 2021 winners. Simon Mail

8) Cancelo out in the cold

Who can solve the mystery of Pep Guardiola’s dropping of João Cancelo? The Portuguese’s adeptness at floating inside from full-back to give the champions an extra creative dimension made him the Manchester City manager’s Philipp Lahm. Not any more. That role has gone to Rico Lewis, 18, and Cancelo’s current fate is to watch from the bench as he has in the past three games: the Premier League wins over Tottenham and Wolves and Friday’s FA Cup victory against Arsenal. Guardiola dropped the 28-year-old after City’s last defeat – at Manchester United – and clearly spotted something in Cancelo’s contribution to the team’s fluidity and functionality. Precisely what will be a topic the Catalan is quizzed on when he next faces the media. JJ

9) Young talent can keep Leeds safe

As Leeds were making short work of Accrington Stanley, one question hovered in the air. How many gifted forwards does one club need? After losing his brightest spark, Wilfried Gnonto, to suspension, Jesse Marsch was still able to pick so many forwards that his formation was an unofficial 4-2-4. If it wasn’t Jack Harrison or Luis Sinisterra marauding down the left, it was Patrick Bamford doing a Harry Kane in the middle, creating as well as shooting (not to mention wearing the armband). Next to him the French striker Georginio Rutter, just signed from Hoffenheim for a club-record £32m, exuded confidence and kept getting into good positions, taking five shots. Leeds barely needed Rodrigo, who came on at 3-0, and didn’t miss Crysencio Summerville, who is injured. They surely have too much talent to spend the next four months in the relegation zone. TdL

10) Perraud helps Saints march on

Southampton know all about attacking left-backs. Gareth Bale, Luke Shaw, Ryan Bertrand – and now Romain Perraud, signed for £10m from Brest 18 months ago. As the Saints met Blackpool for the first time ever in the FA Cup, Perraud’s left foot was the difference between the sides. In the first half, undaunted by having to understudy the peerless James Ward-Prowse, he blasted a free-kick through the Blackpool wall. In the second he danced in from the left wing, played a one-two with Sekou Mara, eluded five defenders and deposited a rasping shot in the far corner. They may be bottom of the Premier League, but Southampton have won four of their six cup matches this season, and the sole defeat – to Newcastle in the Carabao semi-final – can still be overturned in the second leg. As long as they pick Perraud. TdL