IAN LADYMAN: Man United ran out winners in an open contest at Wembley

IAN LADYMAN: Man United ran out winners in an open contest at Wembley, but Newcastle have forgotten how to score… Magpies must learn lessons from their Carabao Cup final heartbreak to ensure fourth place doesn’t slip away

  • Manchester United won the Carabao Cup final 2-0 against Newcastle on Sunday
  • It was not as clear cut as the scoreline suggests, but the Magpies can’t score
  • While the Red Devils stepped up, Eddie Howe’s team must learn lessons from it 

Newcastle look like a team that has forgotten how to score and therefore to win. Manchester United are currently the opposite. They don’t know how to lose. On the back of these two things, this engaging cup final was decided.

This was not a clear cut game of football. It was an open contest and this is what gave it some charm. Newcastle were brave enough to take the game to United in a manner not all teams do. Their football was open and expansive and occasionally direct. 

But United were smarter and more clinical, their success earned by the experience and game intelligence of someone like the 31-year-old Brazilian Casemiro at the heart of their midfield. And by the enduring skills and reflexes of their goalkeeper David de Gea.

In the 31st minute De Gea saved brilliantly from Allan Saint-Maximin at the time when Newcastle were in the ascendency. Six minutes later United were two goals up and within touching distance of winning the game.

This is what good teams do. They maximise their opportunities and, when they need to, they hang on and hang tough. From this perspective, United looked seasoned here at Wembley while Newcastle, hard as they tried, looked callow.

Casemiro (left) and David De Gea were central to Man United lifting the Carabao Cup trophy

Meanwhile, Newcastle United revealed holes in their game plan which left them vulnerable

The Premier League form had looked and felt ominously portentous for Newcastle. One win since Boxing Day and three goals scored. 

It was hardly a recipe for taking down an opponent running hot on momentum and confidence and ultimately it did prove too much to ask. 

In his heart, Newcastle manager Eddie Howe will have desperately wanted this to be different. But inside his sharp football brain, he may also have seen this coming.

As he headed home Howe will have asked himself – as all losing managers do – what he or his players could have done differently. As always there are holes to find.

Certainly Newcastle’s set pieces could have been better. They didn’t make the most of the quite obvious physical superiority they had in this area. There were too many training ground routines and not enough of them worked. When one did come off, defender Dan Burn headed criminally wide.

Howe may also ask himself if starting the desperately out of form Callum Wilson in attack was the right call. It probably wasn’t. But these are pretty small holes to pick. Ultimately Newcastle, for all their progress this season, are a team with limitations remaining and some of them were on show here at Wembley.

United are also far from where they will one day wish to be. But their work in the transfer market has helped them move forward and it did so here. We know all about the impact of last summer’s arrivals – Casemiro was one of them – but here they were aided by two January loan signings, forward Wout Weghorst and late substitute Marcel Sabitser, who spent 25 minutes expertly helping to shore up the game.

Weghost will not be at United beyond this season. He lacks star quality. But the Dutchman is a work horse, a capable link player and, importantly, a crucial first line of the United defence. He was worth his place on this occasion.

Wout Weghorst proved himself as a work horse during his brief spell at Manchester United

Newcastle, conversely, signed only Anthony Gordon in the winter window and he was cup tied for this game. In truth, they looked a little light. They let Chris Wood go to Nottingham Forest when, in truth, they may well have liked to throw the target man on as they chased the game late on here.

So Newcastle are learning and making mistakes as they go. One day they will in all likelihood look back on this day as a disappointment but also as an important step in their transformation to a top tier football club of standing. 

In goal Loris Karius did well enough. It would be harsh to blame him for the second goal. But the Newcastle hierarchy are culpable in the chain of events that led to an out of practice goalkeeper being thrust in to a game of this magnitude. Again, a lesson to learn.

On the field Newcastle had 61 per cent of the possession but only two shots on target. One of those was Maximin’s just after the half hour while the second arrived in stoppage time. This told a story.

Loris Karius did a decent job coming into Newcastle at short notice, but lessons must be learnt

Had Newcastle scored during an early period of dominance, United may have been left a little flustered. 

Equally, had a period of pressure brought them something midway through the second period we may have been treated to one the great cup final finales. The atmosphere here was certainly primed for that. This was not an occasion that lacked colour off the field.

But for all the threat carried by the running of Saint-Maximin and the physical promptings of Joelinton in midfield. just about everything Newcastle did broke down in and around a jumble of red bodies in and around the United penalty area.

United’s defending was excellent. Suffice to say the Raphael Varane/Lisandro Martinez axis represents a slight upgrade on Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof. 

No matter how persistent the Newcastle threat, United never really looked like buckling. When Aaron Wan-Bissaka was introduced in place of Diogo Dalot – who had been booked – for the second half the right-back quickly became the best and most important defensive influence on the field.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka (left) was the best defensive influence on the field after coming on

Overall this was not a final won by United on the back of their traditional dash and dare. No this was a victory requiring altogether more prosaic qualities such as organisation, hard work and discipline. But it was a victory that was nonetheless wholly deserved. 

The manner in which they took two chances in quick succession to take control of the game was in itself quite breathtaking.

We can expect United to go on from here impressively in to the remainder of a season that promises much. What effect this will have on Howe and Newcastle will now be crucial. This has been a season of progression but they must rediscover a little of their oomph sooner rather than later.

A losing cup final – the club’s ninth successive Wembley defeat – and a top four Premier League finish will represent real achievement. Fifth? Sixth? Seventh? Given the way the first half of the season played out, not so much.

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