After making an emphatic comeback against Barcelona in the second leg of the Europa League playoffs, Manchester United go in hunt for their first title since the Jose Mourinho era when they face Newcastle United in Sunday’s Carabao Cup final at Wembley Stadium.
Manchester United drubbed 5-0 Premier League newcomers Nottingham Forest across the two-legged semifinals of the cup earlier this month and secured the passage to the final. However, the Magpies had to dig deep for their safe route to the final as it finished 3-1 across the two legs knocking out Southampton.
Since the defeat to league leaders Arsenal near the end of January, Manchester United have seen themselves in fine fettle as they have secured seven wins and two draws in their last nine games. Erik Ten Hag has worked wonders with this side who lost their self-confidence the previous season and now they are just five points off the league leaders in the Premier League standings.
United flew high at Camp Nou in the first leg of the Europa League tie as they scored two goals past a defensively formidable Barcelona side. Though they could only come away with a draw, they finished off the Catalans at Old Trafford in their previous fixture. Robert Lewandowski gave the visitors the lead after scoring from a penalty in the 18th minute. While Barca aimed to stave off the pressure and continue their passing game till the final whistle, they soon succumbed to the rejuvenated Manchester United side. It was in the 54th minute when Fred initiated the comeback and was quickly completed by Antony’s strike, sending United in the lead.
Ten Hag and The Reds alike will feel that they deserve this mid-season silverware as they have gone through many uncertainties since Sir Alex Ferguson left in 2013.
Meanwhile, Newcastle United have also enjoyed a massive stride in their footballing history as they were acquired by Saudi Arabia’s public investment fund last year. From being a side fighting for survival to being a favourite for European competition, the magpies have come a long way.
Though they started the season on a high, it seems that they have lost the lustre with which they can be consistent with their performances. The Tyne side club was beaten by Liverpool in their last outing, extending their winless run to three consecutive games.
It remains to be seen if Eddie Howe can instil that sense of determination and match-winning mentality in his players, an element which has been missed by them recently.
Manchester United: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Martinez, Shaw; Casemiro, Fred; Antony, Fernandes, Sancho; Rashford
Newcastle United: Karius; Trippier, Schar, Botman, Burn; Longstaff, Guimaraes, Joelinton; Almiron, Wilson, Saint-Maximin
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