A dazzling light show and booming pyrotechnics played out to a Stairway to Heaven soundtrack to millions of households.
…It was as if Christmas hadn’t even arrived.
Let’s pretend it was December 24 instead, and a shared name in the hat for round 4 is the present under the tree. It’s a hat that does little for our appearance, along with a ball we’ve got little use for. Some cash would have been much more useful instead.
Thankfully for Nuno, money is something he should also be expecting from Fosun, like the obligatory pound notes from the relatives, falling from the obligatory cards that you glance to read.
The gaffer needs to get spending and his team needs some help, pronto. To call it a squad would be spurious in the first place as it isn’t one. It’s a commendable, talented side plus one or two kids, which always ends each game reverting to first XI mode. It’s a clutch of 21 names on the back of a programme, featuring Jordao, Kilman, Vallejo and Cutrone – the latter two are surely off anytime soon, if they haven’t left already.
We’re not so much thin on the ground, but absolutely shot to pieces, with only Pedro Neto purchased over the summer (effectively) when we were crying out for reinforcements back then – before a Europa / Premier League advent calendar opened up, featuring 36 windows and counting.
To then play last season’s conquests over Man Utd on the video-walls before kick-off was somewhat arbitrary, as that squad was actually stronger than the one we’re working with right now, only with a fraction of the workload sapping both body and mind.
Neto is worth a mention, as his performance embodied the team’s as a whole. Very brave on the ball, always scheming and showing, but lacking in quality or composure to break down a Manchester United side who were wasting time at the death to take a replay back home. Our little Portuguese is young. We have come far.
In order to maintain the incredible position we find ourselves in, and to even gate-crash the elite that VAR is so crookedly protecting, we need some reinforcements. Otherwise, spectacles like this are the most we can hope for. It’s not that we were bad. Far from it. We just looked five or 10 per-cent off the giddy highs we’ve been spoilt with under our Bearded Wonder. Like the ones we were being reminded of on the video walls.
The worry is it’s a brooding beard, with Nuno’s haunting dark eyes demanding as much attention today as his hat-trick of first punches when we’ve won in the past. He knows those full-time festivities aren’t formalities when you’re playing five games in 12.
When Benny Ashley-Seal is picked over Cutrone, then the Italian’s days are numbered. And when looking at Leicester City – a team we aspire to catch – you can see where we’re still playing catch-up. A player in the James Maddison mould would be worth his weight in gold.
A key to open the door? A ‘target man’ to feed off the many crosses we don’t convert? An Alfred N’Diaye 2.0 to deal with Vicarage Road vigors? In short, a Plan B for spectacles like this at Molineux.
Nuno has a list of those things he wants.
An FA Cup replay won’t be on it.