Manchester United’s crisis is back on after a dismal performance in the FA Cup.
They scraped through against Sheffield United with a correct but ill-deserved Wayne Rooney last-minute penalty, with the fans scathing.
Pundits were calling it Louis van Gaal’s “Mark Robins” moment recalling how close Sir Alex Ferguson supposedly came to the sack when in trouble ahead of bringing the glory days to Old Trafford.
United had only two shots on target throughout.
Former player Robbie Savage charged: “It was an absolute shocking performance from Manchester United. For me, Van Gaal, I’d get rid of him.”
Legendary former midfielder Paul Scholes said: “There just seems to be an acceptance of bad performances. Every time you come to Old Trafford you see negative football.”
But it looks like Rooney has bought the Dutchman a bit more time.
Plucky Exeter managed a 2-2 draw against a shaky Liverpool side, giving the Devon outfit a financially lucrative replay at Anfield.
Jurgen Klopp had made 11 changes – so many it was hard to know whether he was playing the second team or the third team!
The kids did as well as could be expected in the circumstances – heavy pitch, make-shift team, baying home crowd.
Joao Teixeira looked a talented midfielder, full back Brad Smith was determined and full of energy, Tiago Ilori is a prospect at centre-half and substitutes Sheyi Ojo and Pedro Chirivella had some nice touches.
But all are still some way off making it into the big time.
Liverpool, as they always seem to do whoever plays, looked vulnerable on crosses which is how Exeter got their goals as first Tom Nichols slid in and then Lee Holmes scored direct from a corner as goalkeeper Adam Bogdan flapped at the ball, a disease that all too frequently afflicts first choice Simon Mignolet.
Both decent shot stoppers but that isn’t enough. Liverpool need a quality No 1 to give their fragile defence confidence.
Still, complete catastrophe was avoided thanks to goals by Jerome Sinclair and Smith.
Relief for the Reds; pride for the Grecians.
Chelsea grafted their way through at Stamford Bridge, seeing off League One side Scunthorpe United 2-0 with goals from Diego Costa and Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
Currently 14th in the Premier League, 19 points behind leaders Arsenal, and facing a difficult tie against Paris St-Germain in the last 16 of the Champions League, the FA Cup could represent the Blues’ best chance of winning silverware this season.
Interim boss Guus Hiddink, who lifted the trophy in 2009 in his last spell at the club, played a near full-strength team.
A decent performance by Scunthorpe – managed by Fergie saviour Robins – who were denied a blatant penalty after a trip by Ramires.
Tottenham, with a massive history in the FA Cup, have it all to do if they are not to go out at the first hurdle after being held by Leicester 2-2 at White Hart Lane.
Harry Kane’s controversial late penalty sent the contest to a replay.
Nathan Dyer had been adjudged to handle the ball, to the visitors’ fury, claiming it was a complete accident. TV replays suggested that on the balance of probabilities the referee was right.
Christian Eriksen had put Spurs ahead, with a low drive after keeper Kasper Schmeichel parried Nacer Chadli’s shot. Marcin Wasilewski’s header levelled before substitute Shinji Okazaki weaved into the box and fired Leicester ahead. Demarai Gray, a £3.7 million signing from Birmingham had a promising debut.
FA Cup holders Arsenal left it late to see off Sunderland.
The visitors took a surprise lead when Jeremain Lens struck inside the box. Arsenal equalised through Joel Campbell’s half-volley, before Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain hit the woodwork. Substitute Aaron Ramsey tapped in late on to put the Emirates Stadium side ahead before Olivier Giroud’s close-range finish wrapped it up.
Manchester City thumped Norwich 3-0 at Carrow Road, with Sergio Aguero, recently back from injury, looking ominously good.
Shocks of the round were Oxford United beating Swansea 3-2 and Shrewsbury victorious 1-0 over Cardiff, while Eastleigh held Bolton 1-1, and it was the same score between Wycombe Wanderers and struggling Aston Villa.
Teams all too often play weakened sides in the FA Cup these days but for supporters the magic remains.