On 26 February, Manchester United beat Newcastle 2-0 to win the Carabao Cup final at Wembley. The win ended a 6-year trophy drought. United last won the League Cup and the Europa League on Jose Mourinho’s watch in 2017.
“It is about glory and honour, and if you want to prove something and win something, you have to do it because no one is bringing something to you in top football,” Erik ten Hag was quoted as saying after the victory.
The coach added that the process of restoring Man United to where they belong had just started. He added that players and supporters could take inspiration and confidence from the Carabao Cup win.
Turnaround Began After Ronaldo Departed
When ten Hag took over, United had just completed their worst ever domestic season. Worse still, they lost to Brighton and Brentford in the first two games with the new coach at the helm.
The turnaround came gradually. The real progress came after Cristiano Ronaldo left. The coach did not bow to Ronaldo’s will. As things transpired, Ronaldo’s contract was annulled by mutual consent.
After Ronaldo’s exit, United have played 20 matches across competitions, winning 16 and losing just one.
Renewed Belief among Players
There is a renewed belief among players that they can still win trophies. Manchester United last won the Premier League in the 2012-13 season. The team that beat Newcastle had one member from that Premier League winning outfit – David de Gea. The goalkeeper was also part of the combination that won the League Cup and Europa League double in 2017. Both De Gea and Marcus Rashford acknowledge that the hunger to win trophies is back. They want to keep it going.
Beginning of a New Era
The team members are excited and keen to keep the winning momentum going. They readily acknowledge that the win under coach Erik ten Hag is beginning of a new era.
There is no denying that United have been resurgent under coach Eric Ten Hag. The Carabao Cup win came after a run of four unbeaten matches in the Premier League. After a dominant 3-0 win over Leicester, Manchester United are just five points adrift of Arsenal at the top of the table. There are 14 games left to be played and United fans have begun dreaming of topping the table.
Rare Tactical Acumen Shown by Coach
Ten Hag has shown rare tactical acumen. After United drew Barcelona 2-2 on Thursday, the coach brought back Martinez, Sabitzer, Lindelof, Dalot and Garnacho against the Foxes. Ten Hag realises that a strong finish to the season can help the side finish in the top four. Marcus Rashford and Jordan Sancho –players who have flourished under the Dutchman – can make that dream come true.
Rashford’s Brilliant Goal Scoring Form
The win against Leicester was United’s 12th successive unbeaten home game. Rashford became the first player since Rooney in 2010 to score in seven successive home games.
The goal scoring form that Rashford has enjoyed has more than compensated for Ronaldo’s absence.
With six goals by Rashford in his last five matches, United seem ready to challenge for the title. Momentum is the key, and Man City and Arsenal appear to have little of it, heading into the final weeks of the Premier League campaign.
United Need to Prioritise
If United are to continue their journey towards regaining their past glory, Ten Hag must prioritise. Some matches are more important than others.
While the Carabao Cup win was impressive, United’s real focus should be on the upcoming game with Liverpool on 5 March. After the Anfield side’s recent 5-2 thrashing at the hands of Real Madrid, the game presents a real opportunity for United.
Key Players Must Stay Injury Free
Also, some players are key assets that must be preserved for the crucial games. Apart from Rashford, Shaw and Casemiro have been a constant presence. The United coach must ensure that these players remain injury-free if the team is to make a title bid.
Premier League Title Still Within Sight
United have an outside chance of grabbing the Premier League trophy this year. They are also favourites to win the Europa League and the FA Cup.
It wouldn’t be premature to declare this season a success for United, whether or not they win more trophies.
If United keep the momentum they have created, they could put Arsenal and Manchester City under pressure. Neither team would want another rival breathing down their necks heading into the last lap of the Premier League campaign.