Manchester United have arrived in London as they seek a first trophy in almost six years.
The Red Devils will take on Newcastle in the Carabao Cup final at Wembley but could be without Marcus Rashford, who could join Anthony Martial on the injured list. The forward, who has scored more than any player in Europe since the World Cup, picked up an issue in Thursday’s win over Barcelona.
He was hauled off with two minutes to go in midweek and, whilst he’s travelled to the capital, Erik ten Hag was unsure on Friday whether he’d have him available with a decision potentially not being made until the eleventh hour, such is the form of the 25-year-old.
The Dutchman said: “We have to do investigations, medical, of course, yesterday we did. So straight after a game most of the time you can’t say, you have to wait for a 100 per cent diagnosis. So let’s do the medical, the work, we have to wait.”
United’s forward options are becoming increasingly limited as they look to break down a Newcastle side, who have among the meanest defences on the continent. The Magpies, who are looking to prove they now belong among the elite following their Saudi takeover, have already kept United scoreless in their only meeting this term.
The Red Devils have scored 14 times in their five matches en route to their final with the likes of Charlton and Burnley seen off en route. A comfortable aggregate win over Nottingham Forest in the semi-final ensured safe passage to the final – but Ten Hag doesn’t see that as an achievement, with the trophy his only focus.
The Dutchman said: “It’s a great opportunity to get the silverware in and it’s all about that. I think it’s about glory and honour in football. We deserved to play the final and now we have a great opportunity to win the cup so we have to put everything in to get that cup to Manchester.”
Ten Hag may have to rejig his attack should Rashford fail to make the contest. Wout Weghorst has largely led the line since his loan arrival, but has occupied a deeper role in recent weeks. Jadon Sancho started against Barcelona whilst Alejandro Garnacho appeared off the bench.
Antony, who was also only good enough for the bench on Thursday night, underlined his quality by scoring the winner at Old Trafford. The Brazilian has largely underwhelmed since his summer move but is determined to bring silverware back to the club.
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He said in the lead up to the final: “When I came here, I said that Manchester United is a huge club and we’re going to put this club back where it belongs – fighting for and winning trophies. We know that it’ll be a tough task, but we’re aware of how big we are as a club and how good we are.”
Newcastle themselves are by no means heading south with any great form. They’ll be without goalkeeper Nick Pope, who has been a standout performer, following his red card last week. Eddie Howe’s side are pushing for the top four, but have only won once in their last seven league games.
They go into the final as underdogs, having not won a trophy for more than half a century. United’s last success, which was the 2017 Europa League, will feel like a lifetime ago given their reputation of winning silverware annually since the 1990s.
Luke Shaw is one of the few players to be at the club when they last won a trophy, albeit he didn’t appear in the final win over Ajax. The squad is packed with quality however and the left-back is confident that playing group will now be overawed by the occasion.
He said: “We’ve all been in a lot of big games. I think we have that experience, and we can’t, of course, let the occasion take over. Like I say, we have to just focus on the game itself, the things we’ve been doing well and take them into the game and just make sure we focus on our game.”
The MEN have confirmed 22 players who have travelled from Manchester to London. Three goalkeepers have been included with David de Gea expected to fill in as No 1. Three of the past seven finals have been decided on penalties, albeit the Spaniard has a poor shootout record.
Confirmed United travelling squad members: De Gea, Heaton, Butland, Dalot, Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Martinez, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw, Malacia, Casemiro, McTominay, Fred, Sabitzer, Elanga, Fernandes, Sancho, Garnacho, Antony, Rashford, Weghorst.