FA Cup quarter-finals - Five things we learned - Amad Diallo Manchester United
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FA Cup quarter-finals: Five things we learned

FA Cup quarter-finals: Five things we learned, featuring the magic of the cup, a heavyweight classic, and Manchester City’s midfield control.

The FA Cup is still magic

The FA Cup might not carry the same significance it once did to England’s elite, with the financial reward and exposure of the Champions League and Premier League having seen those competitions take centre stage.

It remains, however, a fascinating competition and this season’s narrative has contained no shortage of unforgettable moments. Maidstone United’s run to round five caught the imagination, while the club’s conquerors, Coventry City, are writing their own story now.

The Sky Blues staged a stunning stoppage-time fightback to eliminate Wolves at Molineux, scoring twice deep into the added period to snatch a 3-2 win and a place in the semi-finals. Haji Wright’s winner came in the 10th minute of time added on, only three minutes after Ellis Simms had dragged Mark Robins’ team level.

Coventry are now dreaming of becoming the first team from outside the top flight to win the FA Cup in 44 years, with the club returning to Wembley after losing last season’s play-off final to Luton. After a troubled recent history with financial difficulties, Coventry are on the rise again and proved the magic of the cup is alive this weekend.

Kovacic gives City control

Manchester City’s treble defence remains possible this season after the holders cruised into the FA Cup semi-finals this weekend.

Bernardo Silva’s brace earned Pep Guardiola’s team a 2-0 win over Newcastle, as the Citizens became the first team in history to reach six successive semi-finals. Mateo Kovacic returned to the side after starting last weekend’s draw at Liverpool from the bench and produced arguably his best performance in a City shirt.

The Croatian is perhaps the perfect complement for Rodri as City look to take control of games, bringing a combination of mobility and technical security in possession at the base of the midfield. City were overrun in the second half at Liverpool last weekend, struggling to deal with the intensity from the home team after the interval.

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Kovacic’s calm in deep areas and ability to carry the ball forward under pressure will benefit the Blues in high-stakes games. Given Guardiola’s team continues to compete on three fronts, there’s plenty of them on the horizon.

Chelsea’s Jackson embodies transitional team

Chelsea’s season has not gone to plan. A disappointing Premier League campaign has led to criticism, which coupled with record-breaking investment has piled the pressure on the manager and board. Chelsea have, however, insisted this is a long-term project and the club’s recruitment focus on emerging talent has been done with the future in mind. While an inexperienced squad have been inconsistent, recent weeks have shown shoots of growth from several signings.

Cole Palmer’s immediate impact was unexpected but ideal, while Malo Gusto has grown into the right-back role in the absence of Reece James. There’s also been encouraging signs from Nicolas Jackson, who after a tough start at Stamford Bridge has shown signs of coming good. The Senegal striker was a livewire in the win over Leicester, assisting the opening goal for Marc Cucurella with a superb surging run and square pass across goal.

Leicester struggled to deal with the pace of Jackson throughout and his intelligent play led to Callum Doyle’s red card, as the 22-year-old spun Jannick Vestergaard on the halfway line with a wonderful flick before being fouled as he raced in behind.

Jackson has, on occasion, looked a little clumsy this season and his finishing has been erratic, but there’s no doubt there has been improvement in his all-round game and the raw package is promising. A return of 12 goals and four assists in all competitions is a solid return in his first season in English football. He perhaps embodies the current Chelsea, a team with talent but one which requires patience.

Heavyweights trade blows in all-time classic

Games between Manchester United and Liverpool have not always lived up to the big billing, with England’s most decorated clubs having played out some snoozefests in the modern era. There were no complaints from the neutrals this weekend, however, as English football’s heavyweights went toe-to-toe in an FA Cup classic at Old Trafford.

End-to-end action, seven goals, and more twists and turns than a cheap garden hose, the latest instalment of their north-west rivalry will be remembered for some time. Liverpool twice looked like progressing to the semi-finals after leading in the final moments of normal time and again in extra time, but an unbalanced Manchester United team – operating in gung-ho fashion in terms of personnel – showed spirit to claw themselves back into the game.

Amad Diallo’s 120th-minute winner was pure cinema, as the Red Devils raced away on the break to book their place in the last four with virtually the last kick of the game. Jurgen Klopp’s quadruple dream is over with deflation the overriding feeling, while Erik ten Hag continued his habit of delivering a big result when the pressure is on the rise.

The contributions of Kobbie Mainoo, Alejandro Garnacho and Diallo in particular paint a rosier picture at Manchester United than has often been the consensus of late. The kids are alright for Ten Hag, and silverware remains possible this season.

Forgotten man Diallo enters Red Devils folklore

Amad Diallo had become something of a forgotten man at Manchester United. While much of the talk surrounding the club’s wide options has centered around the form, favour and fall-outs involving Marcus Rashford, Anthony and Jadon Sancho, Diallo has been condemned to the sidelines, recovering from a serious knee injury picked up in pre-season.

The Ivorian spent last season on loan at Sunderland and underlined his potential with 14 goals and the PFA Championship Fans’ Player of the Year award. His summer setback prevented a chance to stake a claim in Erik ten Hag’s team, but he has done so now.

Diallo came off the bench for only his fourth appearance of the campaign and transformed a classic cup tie against Liverpool, helping to reinvigorate a Manchester United team that fought back to progress.

Diallo’s speed and drive injected life into the Red Devils and he got his reward for an impressive cameo with a stunning extra-time winner. The 21-year-old raced forward to join Alejandro Garnacho on the counter-attack and showed composure to slip a finish past Caoimhin Kelleher and ensure the already electric atmosphere at Old Trafford erupted.

A second yellow card arrived for removing his shirt, though he won’t care after an unforgettable goal. This might just be the lift-off moment his Manchester United career needed.

Read – FA Cup Team of the Week – Quarter-final XI

See more – FA Cup Awards: Old Trafford epic and superb Simms

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