Fresh off the back of an incredible win against Barcelona in midweek, Manchester United travelled to Wembley – where they’d face Newcastle United under the famous arch in this year’s Carabao Cup final. Both sides have had a notable trophy drought, with the Reds’ last silverware coming in 2017. The Magpies have had to wait considerably longer, with their last major domestic trophy coming in 1955 – though they did win the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1969.
Arguably the biggest news heading into this fixture revolved around Newcastle’s goalkeeping crisis. After Nick Pope’s red card against Liverpool last time out, the England international would be ineligible for this fixture – meaning Eddie Howe’s attention had to turn to his backups. Normally, he would opt to deploy Martin Dubravka between the sticks – but as the Slovakian has spent time on loan at the Reds, he is classified as cup-tied and also ineligible for the final.
That meant Howe had to resort to his third-choice keeper, Loris Karius – who doesn’t necessarily have the best track record in finals. The German hadn’t played a competitive game in over two years, but would be called into action for the club’s biggest game in recent history in front of over 40,000 Toon fans that made the trip to Wembley.
MUN: De Gea (GK); Shaw, Martinez, Varane, Dalot; Casemiro, Fred; Rashford, Fernandes (C), Antony; Weghorst
NEW: Karius (GK); Burn, Botman, Schar, Trippier (C); Joelinton, B. Guimaraes, S. Longstaff; Saint-Maximin, Wilson, Almiron
Manchester United started slowly – as they have done in other games of late – and Newcastle sought to capitalise early on. Allan Saint-Maximin did well to cut inside and find Bruno Guimaraes, but play was halted after Fred went down injured following a challenge. Saint-Maximin caused problems throughout the game, resulting in Diogo Dalot picking up an early yellow card after hauling the Frenchman to the ground in the middle of the park.
A lengthy stoppage just before the thirty minute mark saw both Lisandro Martinez and Fabian Schar receive medical assistance, after the pair’s heads collided following a threatening cross into the box. Both were fine to continue, though Schar did look to be in some pain for quite a while afterwards.
Perhaps against the run of play, Manchester United took the lead in the 33rd minute. After winning a free-kick on the left, Luke Shaw found Casemiro at the back post – and the Brazilian duly headed home to open the scoring. A relatively lengthy VAR check confirmed that the midfielder was onside, cueing a second round of celebrations in the capital.
They didn’t have to wait long for that lead to be doubled. Less than six minutes after the opener, Wout Weghorst played in Marcus Rashford. The Englishman’s strike was turned into the back of the net by Sven Botman – despite Loris Karius’ best efforts to make the save.
Erik Ten Hag’s side nearly made it three before the break, as Wout Weghorst broke through on goal and unleashed a thunderous strike from distance – but Karius was able to produce a fine save at full-stretch. Still, Manchester United headed into the interval with a very comfortable 2-0 lead, despite a strong opening thirty minutes from the Magpies.
Both managers made a change at half-time, with Eddie Howe opting to replace Sean Longstaff with Alexander Isak – while Erik Ten Hag replaced Diogo Dalot with Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Antony attempted to add to his side’s lead immediately after the interval, as he tried to place a curling shot in the far bottom corner – but his strike was actually hit straight at Karius between the sticks.
Miguel Almiron was starting to pose a real threat down the right-hand-side, linking up well with Kieran Trippier to progress the play. The Paraguayan forward unleashed a powerful shot from the edge of the box with just under half an hour left to play, but a great block from Lisandro Martinez brought an end to that chance.
Fabian Schar’s appeals for a penalty in the final ten minutes were quickly dismissed by the referee. Schar had felt that his collision with Bruno Fernandes inside the box warranted a chance from six yards, but a quick VAR check confirmed the referee’s initial decision.
There were still a handful of chances left in the game, notably for Jacob Murphy and Bruno Fernandes. Murphy received the ball on the edge of the centre circle and surged forwards before hammering a thunderous curling shot towards goal, but it bent just wide of the post – much to the relief of David De Gea. At the other end of the pitch, Bruno Fernandes managed to break through Newcastle’s defence – but opted to take on the shot himself rather than laying it off to Jadon Sancho, and Karius was able to make a great save.
With the full-time whistle, 40,000 United fans burst into a roar of celebration as they’d witnessed their beloved Red Devils bring an end to six painful years without silverware. The plaudits must go to Erik Ten Hag, who has completely revolutionised and united a fragmented side in just nine months – overseeing the Ronaldo scandal during that time too. In fact, it could be argued that his stance throughout the Ronaldo saga helped him to gain respect from the rest of the group – and that could have played a key role in their success.
For Newcastle, it’s heartbreak once again. Their last final appearance came in 1999, as they met Manchester United in the FA Cup – and it’s the Red Devils that have shattered Geordie hearts again tonight. However, the improvement in Eddie Howe’s side over the last twelve months has been sensational, and you really can’t help but feel that it won’t be long before they’re back at Wembley for another cup final.