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Armchair Reporter: Could it be the magic of the FA Cup? Not a lot

Gary Lineker is still upset about his disallowed goal in the 1991 FA Cup final
Paul McConville

WHEN I was a kid, I went through a phase of being really into magic.

I loved seeing magicians on variety shows, got a magic set for Christmas and was glued to Paul Daniels whenever he appeared on the telly. A victim of 2016’s ruthless cull of well-loved faces of my youth, Daniels was great viewing. Magic tricks, a glamorous assistant (who was also his wife) and humour - not forgetting a couple of memorable catchphrase - ‘You’ll like this, not a lot’ and, of course, on the completion of a trick ‘that’s magic’.

Of course, saying ‘that’s magic’ after doing a magic trick seems a bit unnecessary, much like TV companies seem to feel the need remind us of ‘the magic of the FA Cup’ at every available opportunity. Maybe that’s why it’s not so magic anymore. That and the same TV companies scheduling matches at crazy times and spreading the whole thing out over four days.

The third round of ‘the greatest knock-out competition in the world’ got underway when the BBC forced a carload of Man City fans to travel down to London on Friday night for their clash with West Ham. It was a rare chance for the BBC to televise a game between two Premier League clubs, although the way City took the Hammers apart you’d be forgiven for thinking there was a division or two between the sides.

But the highlight of the broadcast from Gary Lineker’s point of view was Gary Mabbutt’s little trip down memory lane at half-time. Mabbutt was reminiscing about the 1991 FA Cup final - Gazza’s kamikaze mission, Lineker’s missed penalty and disallowed goal and Des Walker’s agonising own goal.

Despite winning the Cup 26 years ago, Lineker still wasn’t happy. He had to run the analysis on the disallowed goal which, to be fair, turned out to be onside. He still took a fair bit of ribbing for the missed penalty from Alan Shearer and co.

It turned out to be quite the weekend for record-breaking England goalscorers and a rather pedestrian win for Manchester United over Reading on Saturday was given added importance by Wayne Rooney’s record-equalling goal. Rooney moved level on 249 for United when he kneed the ball into the net after seven minutes. It was the cue for an outpouring of eulogies for the Old Trafford skipper which, considering most of the pundits on BT Sport’s payroll are former United players, got a bit nauseating after a while.

Still, at least there was the deadpan Paul Scholes to keep things on an even keel with an army of lawnmowers trimming the Old Trafford pitch behind. He looked mildly impressed at Rooney’s landmark, his face only really lighting up when he announced he would “love to see Wayne break the record against Liverpool next week”.

It was left to beanpole presenter Jake Humphrey to wrap it all up at OT, leaving Robbie Savage to fill the last five seconds as he had to hot-foot it to Preston, but not before his epic burn on the former United youth team player.

“Wayne Rooney has scored 249 goals for Man United, that’s 94 more than you [points to Scholes] and 249 more than you [points to Savage].”

Now, that’s magic.

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