Sports

Man United look poised to return to glory under Ten Hag

LONDON — Manchester United ended a six-year trophy drought by beating Newcastle United 2-0 in the Carabao Cup final at Wembley on Sunday.

Man United manager Erik ten Hag won the first piece of silverware of his Old Trafford reign thanks to a Casemiro header and a Sven Botman own goal, separated by just six minutes in the first half.

For Newcastle — who were the better team in the second half but couldn’t find a way past goalkeeper David De Gea — their 68-year wait for a major domestic trophy goes on.


Rapid reaction

1. Man United take first step toward returning to the top

This was Manchester United‘s first trophy since 2017 and tangible proof of the progress made under Ten Hag this season. Statement wins over Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester City and Barcelona have been good for morale, but Ten Hag has insisted all along that he’s only interested in the trophies — and he will hope the 2023 Carabao Cup is the first of many.

United reached three semifinals and a final under previous boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but developed a reputation as a team who couldn’t get over the line. Ten Hag, who joined the club in April, has ended that narrative at the first attempt, and this season could yet end with more silverware in the FA Cup, Europa League and, possibly, the Premier League.

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Jose Mourinho won the League Cup in his first season at Old Trafford, too, and although the Europa League trophy followed soon afterwards, it never triggered an era of sustained success. But the fresh start under Ten Hag feels different and there is a genuine belief that this could be the platform for bigger and better things — in particular a first title since 2013 and a first Champions League success since 2008.

There is still work for Ten Hag to do, but lifting the Carabao Cup is a vital first step and proof that what Ten Hag has been doing has been effective.

2. The one-minute sequence that decided the Carabao Cup final

This wasn’t a case of Newcastle being over-awed by a big occasion because, for the first 30 minutes, they were well in the contest. The game, though, hinged on a frantic 60 seconds during which Newcastle could have scored first but ended up going behind.

First, Newcastle winger Allan Saint-Maximin turned defender Diogo Dalot inside out and fired in a shot that was stopped by a strong arm from goalkeeper David De Gea. Newcastle fans were still roaring after going close when Newcastle midfielder Bruno Guimaraes barged over Man United forward Marcus Rashford, and then Casemiro headed in the resulting free-kick from Luke Shaw.

Casemiro was crouched down waiting for the VAR check to confirm the goal and, when referee David Coote signalled to the centre circle the goal would stand, the Brazilian let out a huge scream and punched the air. In a game between two well-matched teams, the first goal was that important and Casemiro, a veteran of these big games, knew it.

Newcastle were the better team for most of the second half but by that stage were 2-0 down thanks to a Sven Botman own goal which came before half-time and just six minutes after Casemiro’s header. The match might have unfolded differently had Saint-Maximin taken his chance just before the free kick, but Manchester United got the better of the defining moment.

3. Newcastle United are only getting started

Playing in a first Wembley final since 1999, Newcastle fans treated it how you would expect with thousands arriving in London early to pack out Trafalgar Square a full 24 hours before kick-off. Without a major domestic trophy since 1955, Newcastle have been starved of success in the northeast.

But defeat to an in-form Manchester United side will not be the end of the story. Newcastle will be back here again sooner rather than later.

Newcastle United have been relatively disciplined with their spending since the Saudi Arabia takeover in 2021, but the owners will continue to improve the squad this summer and beyond, and visits to Wembley will become the norm rather than a rare day out.

This time last season, Newcastle were only just making their way out of the relegation places but now have realistic ambitions to qualify for the Champions League. Mixing with the likes of Real Madrid and Bayern Munich would add to the excitement already building at St James’ Park, although it’s silverware that supporters really crave.

A first Wembley cup final for nearly a quarter of a century ended in disappointment, but everything is pointing to the run being broken soon.


Best and worst performers

Best: Casemiro, Manchester United

Scored the all-important first goal, his fifth of the season, and dug in when Newcastle piled on the pressure in the second half.

Best: Luke Shaw, Manchester United

Defended well and his delivery for Casemiro’s header was beautiful.

Best: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Manchester United

Brilliant after coming on at half-time, both defensively and going forward.

Worst: Callum Wilson, Newcastle United

Lost his battle with Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane and barely had a sniff at goal.

Worst: Sean Longstaff, Newcastle United

Struggled to impose himself in midfield and was replaced with Alexander Isak at half-time as Newcastle went in search of a goal.

Worst: Diogo Dalot, Manchester United

Didn’t do a lot wrong but picked up an early booking which meant he had to come off at half-time.


Highlights and notable moments

Manchester United’s Casemiro opened the scoring with an emphatic goal in the 33rd minute.

Luke Shaw fired a free kick to the top of the six-yard box, and Casemiro was there to nod it in:

Man United scored against just six minutes later when Marcus Rashford’s incisive run gave him a golden chance from close-range.

His goal would be marked down as an own goal from Sven Botman due to the deflection it took, but try telling Rashford this goal wasn’t his:


After the match: What the managers and players said

Newcastle United manager Eddie Howe on the result: “We played really well between both boxes today, we gave everything but we just didn’t get those breaks at both ends. We should have defended the free-kick better and then the second goal is a killer. We did everything to get back in the game. We had chances but couldn’t take them and that’s why we lost. No complaints with how we played, obviously the score line doesn’t say that, and that’s where football can be cruel. Individually and collectively I thought we played well but it just didn’t happen in the box and we need to work on that.”

Manchester United captain Bruno Fernandes on the win: “It’s an amazing feeling. We have been searching for this moment. Us the fans and clubs and all together, finally get our trophy and I think deservedly. It has been an amazing period, first trophy of the season but we want more it is not enough for this club, we want more and we need more because our standards demand more. For me it was about winning trophies and finally we did it. I am satisfied but I want more. I want much more.”


Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information research)

  • Manchester United won their first League Cup title since 2016-17, when they last won a title in any competition (Carabao Cup, Europa League). This ends the club’s longest title drought in 40 years.

  • Man United have won their sixh League Cup title, breaking a tie with Aston Villa and Chelsea for third-most by any team (only Liverpool and Manchester City have more).

  • Casemiro scored his third career goal in finals or title matches since he began playing in Europe. He previously scored in the 2016-17 UCL final vs Juventus and 2017 UEFA Super Cup vs Manchester United (both with Real Madrid).

  • Casemiro has scored four goals in his last 12 games in all competitions, one more goal than he had scored across his previous 89 matches.

  • Casemiro now has six goals this season in all competitions with Manchester United. That’s his second most in a season (2020-21 and 2016-17). The only season he has scored more goals was 2017-18 (7).

  • Manchester United’s second goal would have been Marcus Rashford’s first goal in a final for Manchester United in seven final appearances, but the credit was changed afterward to an own goal from Sven Botman.

  • Newcastle have lost each of their last nine matches at Wembley, a run that began in the 1974 FA Cup final, extending what is the longest ever losing run by a club side at the venue.


Up next

Manchester United: The Red Devils switch their focus to another cup competition, the FA Cup, when they host West Ham United in the fifth round on Wednesday, March 1 (stream live on ESPN+ at 2:40 p.m. ET). Then, Man United head to Liverpool to resume their Premier League campaign on Sunday, March 5.

Newcastle United: The Magpies pick up where they left off in the Premier League, and visit Manchester City on Saturday, March 4 at 7:30 a.m. ET.

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