The Carabao Cup final will be decided by fine margins if the last match between Manchester United and Newcastle is anything to go by.
A 0-0 finish in that particular tight affair suggests that this game, between two relatively low-scoring teams, will take careful consideration of some key battles if the Red Devils are to secure their first trophy in six years. Here The Peoples Person looks at some of what may well turn out to be the most vital.
Set Piece Specialists
Given Newcastle’s quality from set pieces, Ten Hag will certainly have spent plenty of time in the build up coaching his team on defending them. Kieran Trippier ranks amongst the most effective takers in Europe this season, creating a chance from 44% of them. That ranks them as the most effective dead ball team in the league, and the fact that 32% of all of their Premier League goals this campaign have come from such situations shows that they are wise to that strength.
He is comfortable putting the ball into multiple areas, and with United often struggling to defend balls into the back post in particular, it is likely that Trippier will spend a fair amount of time aiming in that direction.
United usually place their fullbacks at the posts, likely predicting that less of a leap will be needed with the ball needing further to travel. That might be something worth looking at for this match, given that Newcastle have the quality to deliver accurate balls with good height to them, even at lengthier distances.
It will be vital to defend the set plays that Newcastle are so happy to depend upon to avoid granting them what could prove to be their biggest strength.
Newcastle’s right-hand side
Man United prefer the left, Newcastle favour the right – making it easy to guess where much of the game will be played.
In the case of the Magpies, Trippier – their most important player in so many ways this season – often is ‘unlocked’ by lateral movements from Sean Longstaff and Bruno Guimares. Along with their top scorer Miguel Almiron, these trios often work triangles to create overloads. Those often lead to deliveries into the box, but the Paraguay winger is also a threat with his ability to beat players and get a shot off.
With the Geordies often so reliant on creating 3v2’s in that area of the pitch, Man United will have questions to answer on their own left flank. Fred may well be the better option in midfield, with the Brazilian a more effective ball-winner that Sabitzer, and thus more capable of protecting Luke Shaw at left back.
What United are certain to possess over Newcastle on that flank is sheer pace. Fred, Shaw, and Marcus Rashford (should Wout Weghorst be preferred to Jadon Sancho to help with set plays) have the beating of Trippier, Longstaff, and Almiron when it comes to attacking at speed. Manchester United have been among the most effective sides in the Premier League when it comes to fast breaks. With Newcastle often needing to push their right-sided trio high up the pitch to create chances in open play, United will have plenty of space to attack quickly after turnovers.
In play time
On three occasions this season, Newcastle have been involved in matches in which the ball has been in play for slightly over 45 minutes. They rank above only Leeds United for average in-play time in the Premier League.
There are a couple of ways in which Newcastle go about achieving this. As pointed out by Erik ten Hag in the build up to the game, Eddie Howe’s team look to “annoy.” As the manager says, “It’s up to us that we get speed in the game, but we are then dependent on the refereeing as well.”
⌚️ https://t.co/Ojlgc69k10 pic.twitter.com/w1y4ynoG45
— Opta Analyst (@OptaAnalyst) February 24, 2023
That points to the use of officials to influence games, and they are far better at doing it than the Red Devils. Newcastle win 10.3 fouls per game on average. Manchester United, by contrast, win 7.5 fouls per game – the lowest in the Premier League. (Whoscored)
Newcastle are also very happy to play for corners rather than keep the ball in play, having won 159 – the most in the Premier League – so far this season already.
Nick Pope has also been a time-wasting specialist having earned three bookings in doing so this season, although his stand in, Karius, may not execute the plan as effectively.
It may not seem like a strictly tactical point at first glance, but – for better or worse – working the officials is an important skill in the modern game. Aside from that, United would do well to make the most of their time on the ball. Speed and decisiveness will be vital weapons in overcoming the annoyers.
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