There are different definitions for the trophy drought in these two clubs. It seemed like a long time ago that Manchester United were winning this competition and the Europa League under Jose Mourinho. It was 2017 and the barren years since then had added to the club’s longest streak without silverware since the early 1980s.
Newcastle, of course, can see that and raise it again by 54 years – the gap to their famous Fairs Cup triumph. This final, Newcastle’s first since the 1999 FA Cup when they faced the same opponents, was about who could break new ground, who could have a chance. As in 1999, it was the Reds – and by the same scoreline.
Erik ten Hag was the picture of joy when it was all over, with his players, his revolution at Old Trafford given the hard edge it had required. And, really, it was all pretty comfortable after a two-goal blitz toward the end of the first half.
The excellent Casemiro got the first with a terrific header, Marcus Rashford forced the second with a shot that deflected off Sven Botman to wrong-foot the hapless Loris Karius and United were only too glad the second half wasn’t an event, a gradual countdown for the glory.
Ten Hag’s side have lost just once in 21 matches, are alive and kicking in the last 16 of both the FA Cup and Europa League, and sit comfortably third in the Premier League. It looks and feels super sweet. And if Avram Glazer, who was present here, and his family could now leave as United fans have been demanding all along…
Newcastle have been transformed since their takeover from Saudi Arabia in October 2021, with Eddie Howe benefiting from a £240m spending spree on new players and shaping a team of steel and spirit, one that has proved extremely difficult to break down. But the cold truth was that after a decent start, they went with a whimper.
It was quite the scene about 15 minutes before kick-off, the Newcastle end full, black and white flags flying. The other half of the pitch took its time to fill up, the red and whites looking a bit more relaxed, all that anyway. There was no concerted pre-match display from them. But it was their fans who could stick around for what mattered – the trophy presentation.
United’s identity has become clearer under Ten Hag. They were happy to invite Newcastle up front or try to win possession up high. The bottom line was that they wanted to make the transition quickly and the option of a limited number of early chances were theirs, Wout Weghorst had a decent opening when he failed to connect properly with a broken ball inside the area.
Newcastle started with intensity to match their support and plenty of possession, Bruno Guimaraes appeared in the middle of the pitch. Allan Saint-Maximin flashes down the left, drawing a yellow card foul from Diego Dalot.
It was Saint-Maximin who almost drew first blood, tricking Dalot past the far post after a clever Newcastle move and cutting inside. David de Gea had the right angles and blocked. Dalot will be substituted at half-time. It was United who unlocked the game and it was disappointing from Newcastle’s point of view that Casemiro’s fifth goal of an already amazing season came from a set-piece.
Luke Shaw curled in a free-kick from the left after Rashford had taken on Guimaraes – a decision Newcastle didn’t like – and Casemiro had the no-nonsense feat of getting between Fabian Scherr and Sven Botman to take home.
Newcastle heads turned and their opponents completed the devastating one-two punch with the help of a deflection and an awkward moment from Karius. The story of Newcastle’s third-choice keeper was well told in the build-up and many wanted him to excel. to recover from a concussion nightmare in his last appearance for an English club – Liverpool’s Champions League final defeat by Real Madrid in 2018.
But when Rashford, who was on after an injury scare, latched on to Weghorst’s pass down the inside-left channel and saw an errant shot deflected off Botman, Karius was unable to react in time. The ball spun and went through his overstretched arm.
Dan Byrne could have pulled one back late in the first half, heading wide after Kieran Trippier took a short corner. The game was slipping away from Newcastle and Joelinton felt the red mist descend after Antony had taken the mickey out of Burn, sliding to the wing and then dragging Casemiro down. He had a reservation.
Howe made a splash at the start of the second half, introducing Alexander Isak up front alongside Callum Wilson. The atmosphere at the Newcastle end of the ground had changed noticeably. They needed something. For United, it was just about keeping their defensive shape and making their tackles.
Saint-Maximin continued to look like Newcastle’s most likely playmaker and that was saying a lot given how inconsistent he was. He called for more noise from the black and white hordes after winning a corner. hitting them, partly out of frustration. Joelinton would later do the same after seeing a shot blocked.
And yet from that corner won by Saint-Maximin, Trippier ended up going back to Burn who was almost halfway there. Byrne whipped a cross back to Trippier, who lost possession and the club’s fans scratched their heads.
Apart from late efforts from substitute Jacob Murphy and Joelinton, Newcastle offered little. It was United who were the most likely scorers at the break, with Rashford and Bruno Fernandes denied by Karius.