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How 2 Man United players could make the difference in Carabao Cup final



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Credit: IMAGO / PA Images

If you told Manchester United fans last summer that they’d be walking into the Carabao Cup final as overwhelming favourites to win, they’d have laughed in your face.

Such is the progression of Manchester United under Erik ten Hag that fans feel so confident of a win, and a huge part of this progression has been the bedrock of the team.

Lisandro Martínez has proven to be one of the best signings the club has made in years and is an absolute warrior for United who two months ago became a World Cup winner. But the two players that are key to discuss are his centre-back partner and the defensive midfielder that protects them.

Raphaël Varane and Casemiro have been two of United’s finest players this season. Casemiro another great signing made in the summer, maybe United’s best since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, and Varane has gotten over an injury-hit first season.

These two are amongst the very finest players their respective positions have ever seen, and have won their fair share of cup finals together playing for Real Madrid.

So that people don’t get the wrong idea: winning trophies doesn’t immediately make you a good player, and likewise, being without silverware does not make you a bad player.

The sport is more complicated than that. But being a key contributor to winning sides at the highest level is indicative of having qualities that can’t always be quantified.

Varane and Casemiro possess these intangible qualities in abundance. They are leaders of the absolute highest level who when the lights shine brightest, unlock a higher level reserved purely for these occasions. They know how to manage and see out games of this calibre, something that will be particularly important against an ‘annoying’ Newcastle United side.

The former Madrid pairing have been on – and won – both sides of the ball in a final. They have been the side who come out and dominate the ball, who pin opposition players back. But they have also been part of the side defending deep, fighting for everything and looking to counter teams.

They have also been part of the end-to-end finals, where it feels like something is happening every other minute. Every final game state you can think of, they have been there and done it. And that can be invaluable.

Manchester United have not won a trophy since 2017, and few players from those trophy-winning sides remain fixtures in the United team now. Many of them do not know the taste of winning and have not experienced cup finals the same way the Frenchman and the Brazilian have.

The last final Manchester United played, in 2021, showcased a lot of naïvety, amongst other things. These two players bring with them not only a certain level of experience but a level of maturity too and this maturity will be expected to guide United through a tough match which will indicate how far they have come under Ten Hag.

Sunday is a must-win game and could be a turning point for Manchester United for years to come. It is an unfamiliar situation for many United players, but for these two it is something of a normality. They are not two of the most successful footballers of the last decade by coincidence, these are two players that know and have learnt how to win at the highest level.

On Sunday, United will be relying on these qualities of theirs to lead the team to victory, and they will be confident that the two deliver.