Manchester United travel to Wembley Stadium for the final of the Carabao Cup where they will take on Newcastle United. United and the Magpies have already met in the Premier League once this season, resulting in a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford back in October. They will meet at St James’ Park in April. United sit above Newcastle in the Premier League in third place, eight points clear although the Magpies have a game in hand and have dropped out of the top four.
United beat Aston Villa 4-2, Burnley 2-0, Charlton Athletic 3-0 and Nottingham Forest 3-0 and 2-0 (5-0 on aggregate) to reach the final of the Carabao Cup this season. Newcastle beat Tranmere Rovers 2-1, Crystal Palace 3-2 on penalties, Bournemouth 1-0, Leicester City 2-0 and Southampton 1-0 and 2-1 (3-1 on aggregate) to reach the Wembley final. United and the Magpies last met at Wembley in the 1998/99 FA Cup final with United winning 2-0 on the way to the treble.
This should be a good match for United, who will have played eight matches this month after the final with Newcastle playing half as many. United will be confident though after beating Barcelona 2-1 (4-3 on aggregate) in the UEFA Europa League play off round earning a round of 16 place where they will face Real Betis next month to continue to fight in all competitions. United are the only team to still be in four competitions and seeking to lift the first trophy of the season.
Predicted Manchester United Starting XI – 4-2-3-1
Dalot, Varane, Martinez, Shaw;
Antony, Fernandes, Rashford;
Goalkeeper: De Gea
In the past week, David De Gea has matched Peter Schmeichel’s 180 clean sheets at United and helped the club get the better of Barcelona in the UEFA Europa League play off, earning a place in the round of 16 where they will face Real Betis next month. It has been a big week for United which will reach the pinnacle of the Carabao Cup final on Sunday afternoon – United’s first cup final under the management of Erik ten Hag. This is a big occasion for United.
United last lifted this trophy six years ago after then beat Southampton 3-2 at Wembley with Zlatan Ibrahimović scoring a brace and Jessie Lingard scoring the goals for United under the management of José Mourinho. The Portuguese manager had already won the FA Community Shield that season and went on to win the UEFA Europa League too. United are still in all four competitions they started the season in and De Gea has been key to that.
The Spanish goalkeeper will be determined to help United lift the Carabao Cup this season after United reached one cup final – the Europa League under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, failing to lift the trophy. De Gea could well leave Old Trafford after this season with his contract coming to an end – although rumours suggest he could be retained at the club on a lower paid contract. United have really turned a corner under Ten Hag this season and they have much further to go.
Defenders: Dalot, Varane, Martinez, Shaw
United’s defence got the better of Barcelona at Old Trafford on Thursday evening which will set them up to do well against Newcastle United at Wembley in their first cup final of the season. Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez partnered well against the Catalan club with the Frenchman resolute in his defending and the Argentinian stepping up in the second half after being closed out of the match in the first half. Both should start this match.
Varane is a player that has success to his name with 18 trophies won whilst playing for Real Madrid and both the FIFA World Cup and UEFA Nations League whilst playing for France. Martinez does not have that wealth of experience but did help Argentina win the World Cup back in December, also winning the Copa America and the CONMEBOL-UEFA Cup of Champions. At Ajax he won two Eredivisie titles, one KNVB Cup and one Johan Cruyff Shield.
With Varane and Martinez, Diogo Dalot should start at right-back with United using his attacking ability, as they did against Barcelona on Thursday evening when he replaced Aaron Wan-Bissaka. The former Crystal Palace right-back could replaced Dalot if needed, to add more power on the flank. Luke Shaw should start in the left-back role with United using the wide positions to launch attacks with Shaw having a good eye for a cross for the attacking players.
Midfield: Casemiro, Sabitzer
United’s midfield is somewhat stronger when Casemiro is playing and his ability both on an off the ball is clear for everyone to see. There is no doubt that whilst he was suspended, United were at a massive disadvantage, especially with the likes of Christian Eriksen also out of the squad duo to injury. Marcel Sabitzer’s arrival has been good for United and with his rested in the Europa League, he will be fresh and ready for this match against the Magpies.
Casemiro will need to be at the best of his game to take on Newcastle, who will be seeking to win their first domestic trophy since 1955 and also looking to undo the humiliation of the defeat to United in their last cup final – the FA Cup in the 1998/99 season when United won the treble. The Brazilian will be seeking to guide United to lift their first trophy under Ten Hag, hopefully the first of many for the club. He should definitely start this fixture as his experience will be key.
Sabitzer should start alongside Casemiro which would be the first time they have featured together. They could work well together the push United to dominate against the Magpies and with Casemiro getting forward at times to link the midfield to the attack, he could also be a goal threat with him already scoring four goals this season and getting five assists. Sabitzer has had a few chances on goal but we are yet to see a goal or assist from him. That would be good to see.
Attacking Midfield: Antony, Fernandes, Rashford
United will no doubt suffer a huge blow if Marcus Rashford is out of the Carabao Cup final on Sunday. Ten Hag will give him time to recover from the ankle injury he seemed to sustain against Barcelona on Thursday evening but the match could come too soon for him. I think he may start this match and Ten Hag is just creating a sideline of entertainment for Newcastle – however, should it be the case, Jadon Sancho could step in for him. He will need to inspire though.
Antony looks set to start on the right-wing after coming on and changing the game against Barcelona on Thursday with United thundering out of the traps at the start of the second half, getting an immediate equaliser and pushing for the winning goal that came from the foot of the Brazilian winger. He’s such a talented player and with the smell of s trophy in the air, he will be wanting to help United win it so his critics can feat on their own words. They like to criticise United too much.
Bruno Fernandes will be seeking to captain United to their first trophy during his time at the club – although this will be his second cup final since signing for United in January 2020. He was involved in the goals against Barcelona and will no doubt be seeking more during the remainder of the season. I would prefer Rashford to start but if he can’t and it fit enough for a place on the bench, Sancho must start ahead of him providing Rashford can offer something from the bench.
The Dutchman has played in all 11 matches since signing for the club in January on loan for the remainder of the season, playing 813 minutes and scoring one goal and one assist so far. Wout Weghorst has faced a lot of criticism with suggestions that United play with ten men when he’s on the pitch but then pundits and never-have-beens just need to criticise United to get in the headlines. They do the same as Piers Morgan does to get attention. Sad really.
Weghorst offers more than just goals on the pitch – creating space for other attacking players to break through, also holding up the ball well and being a threat, despite not adding to his two goal contributions so far this season. The 30-year-old is experienced in the game has not yet won anything in his career but that does not mean he can be written off. Ten Hag sees something in him and with Anthony Martial still not back in action, he’s the only striker United have at this time.
Recently. with Rashford on the pitch, Weghorst has played in the number ten role and playing further forward. United have been winning matches, or drawing – not losing, so something has been working well for them. I think the Dutchman will have a positive time at United this season, although they will not sign him permanently. If he can help United lift the Carabao Cup at Wembley on Sunday, it will have been a positive time for him. United have the players to win this match.
Substitutes: Heaton; Maguire, Malacia, Wan-Bissaka; Fred, Pellistri, McTominay; Sancho, Garnacho
United will be able to name nine substitutes on the bench in the Carabao Cup final on Sunday, fewer than the twelve players on the bench against Barcelona on Thursday evening. I would expect to see Tom Heaton in the bench in terms of reserve goalkeeper as he has played in the competition this season and will be able to do his best should he be needed at all. However, I expect De Gea to start the match and Jack Butland to still be waiting for that opportunity to feature for United.
In the defence, United look set to have a number of players available. Harry Maguire could be back from injury as he was pictured in training, which could leave Victor Lindelof out of the squad completely, which would be a shame for him. Tyrell Malacia and Aaron Wan-Bissaka could also be available. It could well be that Maguire is kept out with Lindelof remaining in the squad, or one of the fullbacks, perhaps Malacia, missing the match completely, which would also be a shame.
In the midfield, United could have Fred, who scored United’s equaliser against Barcelona, Facundo Pellistri, who can offer something in attack and Scott McTominay all on the bench – which would mean that Kobbie Mainoo and Zidane Iqbal miss out completely. In attack, Jadon Sancho and Alejandro Garnacho should be available. If Rashford is not able to start, Sancho could take his place in the starting XI and he take Sancho’s position on the bench.
Written by John Walker