Euro 2020 Special

Manchester United to Face Newcastle in EFL Cup Final

This year’s EFL (English Football League Final) – for sponsorship reasons it is known as the Carabao Cup – will feature Manchester United and Newcastle United.

Both teams won their two-legged semi-finals home and away, to set up an eagerly awaited clash at Wembley, on Sunday, February 26th.

The two sides are both going well in the Premier League, and with each in the middle of a rebuild project, it represents an early chance for them to get their hands on silverware.


Manchester United

Manchester United had done all the hard work in their semi-final with Nottingham Forest by winning 3-0 away from home at the City ground.

Two late goals in the return fixture at Old Trafford, from Antony Martial and Fred sealed the deal.


Newcastle United

Newcastle had faced a trickier task in their own first leg away to Southampton, but a late goal from Joelinton gave them a precious lead to take back to St. James Park.

Sean Longstaff put them ahead in the second leg, his first goal for three years, and then added a second one soon afterwards. Che Adams pulled a goal back, but despite the home side finishing with ten men after Bruno Gumarāes was shown a straight red card for a bad challenge, the Northeast side progressed.


Newcastle’s elusive hunt for silverware

Although Newcastle have won the First Division four times and the FA Cup six times, the last trophy of any kind they lifted was the Faits Cup (one of the predecessors of the Europa League) back in 1969.

Their last Wembley final was 29 years ago, when they were beaten in the final of the FA Cup with their opponents that day – Manchester United.

Their only previous appearance in a League Cup final was back in 1976, when they were beaten 2 -1 by Manchester City at Wembley.


United serial winners

United, of course, have been serial winners of trophies, although they have been in less regular supply since Sir Alex Ferguson stepped down as manager.

In fact, almost the last time they won anything was the League Cup in 2017, when Jose Mourinho was in charge of the club, beating Southampton on that occasion.

They did reach the final of the Europa League under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but lost to the Spanish side Villareal on penalties.

That win six years ago was their fifth League Cup success – they also won it in 1992, 2006, 2009, and 2010. 


Both clubs rebuilding strongly

Newcastle, after decades of decline and stagnation, are a side on the up, which can be dated to 2021 when they were bought by a Saudi-backed consortium that, on paper, at least, makes them the richest club in the world.

They appointed Eddie Howe as manager soon afterwards and it proved to be a shrewd appointment, as, along with some clever recruitment off the pitch, the club has adopted a policy of evolution not revolution, resisting the temptation to splash the cash immediately in favour of more strategic signings with an eye to the future.

Boasting the meanest defence in the league, they are currently third in the Premier League, and in the automatic Champions League places.

United are just one place behind them and are in the middle of their own renaissance under Dutch manager Erik ten Hag.

The Dutchman inherited a deeply divided team after the sacking of Solskjaer and the less-than-stellar interim reign of Ralf Rangnick. It took him some ideas to get his ideas across, and he had to deal with the fall-out from the dropping of Cristiano Ronaldo and the subsequent airing of his grievances in a television interview.

However, with Ronaldo’s contract terminated by mutual consent, the whole episode served, if anything to strengthen his authority at the club, and he has started to mould them to play how they want.

They remain in four competitions.

He cannot heal the rift between the club’s supporters and their owners, the Glazer family, but that is deep-seated and existed long before he was ever associated with the club.


Nothing to separate them

There is nothing to separate these two teams on paper going into this match, and no obvious favourites.

Popular sentiment may just favour Newcastle because it has been so long since they enjoyed trophy success of any time, but there are also plenty of people who are unhappy about their Saudi backers.

Whoever wins, it will be an affirmation that their respective project is on the right lines.

Finals can often be disappointing affairs, but this is one to relish.




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