Heartbreak with a catch: What went wrong for Newcastle United against Manchester United?

Newcastle United could not win their first major domestic trophy since 1955 after they were beaten 2-0 by Manchester United in the Carabao Cup final.

Manchester United crushed the hopes Newcastle United of claiming a first domestic trophy in nearly 70 years with a clinical 2-0 victory in the Carabao Cup final under the famous Wembley arc on Sunday.

The Magpies’ first major final in 24 years ended in bitter heartbreak as Manchester United won their first piece of silverware under Erik ten Hag thanks to a first-half header from Casemiro and a Marcus Rashford shot that took a heavy deflection off Sven Botman.

Manchester United, who beat Barcelona in midweek to reach the Round of 16 of the UEFA Europa League and are still in contention in the Premier League title race, made a great start to the game. As the Red Devils were eager to score early. Newcastle United, on the other hand, were no exception. The Magpies, too, demonstrated their attacking flair in the first minutes. But neither team was able to test either goalkeeper.

Manchester United grabbed the first goal of the game courtesy of Casemiro. Marcus Rashford grabbed the ball and sprinted down the left wing, where he was fouled. Luke Shaw then delivered a wonderful free-kick that Casemiro headed into the net to give the Red Devils a lead against the run of play just beyond the half-hour mark.

With the Manchester United determined to retain their dominant position, Newcastle United upped their high pressing intensity in a bid to get the equaliser. That backfired, as six minutes later, they were left totally deflated, clutching the air in frustration when the in-form Rashford was played in down the left and his scuffed effort deflected over helpless debutant Loris Karius.

Here at The Hard Tackle, we now look at some of the main reasons why Newcastle United failed to beat Manchester United and what went wrong for Eddie Howe’s side in the Carabao Cup final.

Fine Margins going against unlucky Newcastle United

There was little between the sides in a scrappy first half. But the English season’s first trophy was effectively decided by two quickfire goals in the space of six minutes close to half-time.

After a hectic start to the game that lacked many clear-cut chances, Manchester United opened the scoring in the 33rd minute as stalwart midfielder Casemiro sent half of Wembley into ecstasy. Luke Shaw hung in a stooping cross from a wide free kick, and the Brazil international expertly glanced a header into the far corner.

He was deemed to have been played marginally onside after a VAR review. It was hugely controversial since they were drawing lines using Casemiro’s foot instead of his leaning shoulder, which seemingly strayed in an offside position.

Not to mention, this goal came moments after Allan Saint-Maximin almost drew first blood on 32 minutes at the other end of the pitch. He had already drawn Diogo Dalot into a yellow-card tackle. He tricked past the full-back, cut inside, and unleashed one from a tight angle. David de Gea got his angles right, and the French maverick was denied.

With the momentum in their favour, Manchester United doubled their advantage six minutes later as Sven Botman deflected Marcus Rashford’s effort into his own goal. Wout Weghorst surged forward and played Rashford from behind. The Englishman’s shot from a narrow-angle was deflected up and over the stretching Loris Karius, who had his near-post covered, by Botman as the Red Devils cemented their grip on the tie.

Dan Burn had a chance to equalise in first-half stoppage time but headed wide after Kieran Trippier had manufactured a short corner. The incredibly fine margins were against Newcastle, who did not get the rub of the green in terms of some dubious refereeing decisions as well. And they struggled to keep their cool.

Joelinton, for example, swiped at Antony and hauled down Casemiro in a moment of madness, which could have resulted in a straight. But he was yellow-carded. And this has been a microcosm of Newcastle’s broader difficulties: they are flying high but missing chances and underperforming. They have hit the woodwork the most number of times in the Premier League while being one of the worst sides at converting big chances. Simply put, they could not hit a barn door with a banjo in recent games. That is our next pointer.

Lack of clear-cut chances and the final product

There was no lack of commitment to the cause or work rate. But there is a dire lack of end product for a side whose momentum in the Premier League has halted lately. As a result, that excruciating wait to celebrate a trophy continues.

That was evident here as Newcastle got into threatening situations many times in the second half through Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin but failed to capitalise in a way that would have put pressure on Manchester United.

Newcastle were full of energy early on, feeding off the black-and-white atmosphere created by the Toon faithful. Allan Saint-Maximin looked dangerous whenever he got the ball, taking Diogo Dalot to the cleaners early on. There were flashes of promise as they played their way out of the opposition’s press in a slick manner, playing it through the midfield or down the flanks to Saint-Maximin or Callum Wilson.

The industry, precise passes, and dangerous-looking crosses into the box were all on display. But the goals have dried up. In their last seven league matches, Eddie Howe’s side have had 97 shots and scored three goals. And that lack of goals in recent months was evident as they huffed and puffed.

Saint-Maximin was denied from close range, Joelinton headed one golden chance over, and Dan Burn’s header whistled wide on the stroke of half-time. But by that stage, the writing was on the wall for a familiar tale of disappointment. They upped the tempo in the second period, only to deliver an improved yet toothless performance.

Boyhood Newcastle fan and winger Jacob Murphy came on for the last eleven minutes and almost scored when his late effort brushed agonizingly past David de Gea’s post. The consolation would have at least given the 32,000 supporters something to shout about.

Lack of big-game experience

Manchester United were not at their best. In fact, over the course of the game, one can genuinely argue that Newcastle were the better team, and controlled the game for large parts. The Red Devils were dominated in most aspects of the game: build-up, successful passes, possession, total shots, etc. But they handled the game superbly after they got the lead.

They also had a significantly greater goal threat on the counter-attack, and Wout Weghorst squandered an opportunity by shooting too softly at Karius, who, by the way, had a brilliant game given he was thrown into the deep end after not playing a competitive game in over two years.

The German goalkeeper made several big stops to keep Newcastle in the game when Manchester United were threatening to seal the deal on counter-attacking moments. In the end, Newcastle lacked the world-class talent to take the game by the scruff of the neck or the experienced winning quality that Manchester United can call upon.

Raphael Varane, Lisandro Martinez, Bruno Fernandes, and Casemiro have all seen it and done it in the finals. The quartet showcased their powers of determination and warrior-like mentality to help their side absorb the pressure and the efficiency that they showed in winning a final without ever approaching their free-flowing best.

Once the Red Devils had their two-goal lead, ten Hag showed his commendable game-management skills. Diogo Dalot, on yellow and a touch wild, was dragged off at half-time. Leggy Fred joined him in the 69th minute. This is where Manchester United arguably won the match despite ceding possession to the Magpies. Marcel Sabitzer and Scott McTominay’s fresh legs helped in containing the frantic and energetic opponents.

This will be a big learning experience for the Newcastle manager as well as his players, who certainly did not have the big-game acumen of Raphael Varane and Casemiro. And perhaps that contributed to Newcastle’s lack of cutting-edge despite all the xG metrics.

With Anthony Gordon also cup-tied, the Magpies’ bench was never something Howe looked comfortable turning to turn the tie. Alexander Isak was introduced at the break for an attacking push. But Bruno Guimaraes and Saint-Maximin eventually ran out of steam. And Howe tried to plug the gap with decent players like Joe Willock and Murphy, but not names like Sabitzer, Sancho, or even Harry Maguire, for that matter.

Silver lining: Like it or not, Newcastle United are back!

For Newcastle, the disappointment was immense. But this felt different for Toon fans. It has been 54 years since winning a trophy, as this clash became the fifth final defeat — three in the FA Cup and twice in this competition — since winning the Inter-City Fairs Cup. Wembley once again brought only heartache for the Geordies, who have now lost each of their past nine matches at the same venue, a run that began in the 1974 FA Cup final.

Hopefully, they will dust themselves off and feed off this. Who knows? This may well drive them on throughout the rest of the season in their top-four bid. But the sense of a missed opportunity can be seen on the face of manager Eddie Howe.

While there’s genuine optimism that Newcastle are heading in the right direction, opportunities do not always present themselves as frequently as expected, regardless of talent or resources.

Speaking after the game in the post-match presser, the Magpies boss said, “It is a process, we want to be here on a regular basis. There is a long way to go to be the team we want to be. We can be proud of our performance, but we were not clinical enough. As much as we didn’t want the final to be a distraction it has been. The players gave everything.”

Of course, this is a final, and only the outcome matters. In some ways, it was never about the outcome at Wembley on Sunday. The fact that tens of thousands of Geordies were given the opportunity to see the capital was enough after 14 years of constant suffering under Mike Ashley’s regime.

Everything was black and white at Trafalgar Square as if Newcastle fans had invaded that part of London. Newcastle United fans who made the trip in quest of that elusive glory, that much-coveted silverware, seemed to have painted every street in London monochrome.

Newcastle’s supporters were in fine voice at Wembley. But the full-time whistle sound at Wembley Stadium on Sunday evening brought a whole spectrum of emotions for Newcastle United supporters. On one hand, they were proud of their team but absolutely gutted that Eddie Howe’s side came out on the wrong end of their Carabao Cup Final.

It also signaled the frustration and anguish caused by an extension of the painfully long search for major silverware. It was a brief, sobering reminder that, despite being dubbed “the richest club in the world” following a contentious and divisive takeover by a Saudi-led consortium, their journey is still in its early stages, and the road ahead is long.

But their unconditional love for this team full of redemption arcs reflected in the stoppage time, when they were spotted singing positive chants about Howe and star midfielder Bruno Guimaraes despite being 2-0 down.

The Toon faithful also created a sea of black and white with give-away plastic flags on the stadium’s west side during the closing minutes. On the other hand, the Manchester United supporters were reciting “Glazers out” in front of the owner Avram Glazer, despite getting their hands on the domestic trophy.

The narrative and debate from the neutrals’ point of view after the game were that much of the build-up was on Newcastle’s first appearance in a major final since 1999, as well as Eddie Howe’s turnaround since the Saudi Arabia-led takeover. Yet Erik ten Hag’s revitalised Manchester United side demonstrated how far they still have to go.

Rightly so; rewind only 12 months. Newcastle, loitering near the relegation zone, could not have imagined that they were inches away from ending their 24-year trophy drought or making a cup final appearance. First silverware was always the plan, but much further down the line. And Eddie Howe’s side are ahead of schedule.

After all, Manchester United have spent over a billion pounds on players in the last six years without winning anything. Newcastle have long been regarded as a sleeping giant, a club that only needed sound hierarchy and investment to align with the passionate and sizeable fan base. So they are a clear threat to the so-called traditional Big Six establishment.

Newcastle United will be back at Wembley. And there will be more finals with more investment, time, and nurturing of their still relatively young stars. You have no doubts about it, especially under current boss Eddie Howe, whose message has been clear from the moment he walked through the door at Newcastle: winning a trophy is incredibly important. This is only the beginning, and the Newcastle juggernaut can no longer be ignored.

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