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Manchester United manager, Erik Ten Hag has labelled Newcastle United an “annoying team to play against” ahead of Sunday’s Carabao Cup final. Ten Hag’s United have only played Newcastle once so far this season with the game back in October ending 0-0 at Old Trafford.
Ten Hag’s viewpoint on the Magpies stems from the fact that they aren’t the most proactive of teams. Instead, Eddie Howe had built a team that like to frustrate their opponents before springing into action on the counterattack.
What’s more, they are a side that likes to slow the game down wherever possible. On average this season, games featuring Newcastle have only had the ball in play for 52.3% of the match. This is the second lowest rate in the Premier League behind Leeds with 51.8%. It is this factor that Ten Hag find particularly annoying. He said:
“They’re an annoying team to play against, we have to find a way to win. They try to annoy you but we have to make sure that we play our game and we focus on our game. For instance, they have the lowest (ball-in-play percentage) in the league and they are quite successful with it. It’s up to us to speed up the game but we are also dependent on the refereeing as well.
We have to make it our game, so focus on the job we have to do, and focus on playing football when the ball is in the game. Don’t get distracted and find the moments where we can strike.”
51:47 – The ball has been in-play for 51 minutes and 47 seconds on average in Newcastle's Premier League games this season, the second-lowest of any side after Leeds (51:05), while only Chelsea's games (9:11) have averaged more added time than Newcastle's (9:04). Annoying. https://t.co/z9SinVMUo4
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 24, 2023
Injury doubts for United
Ten Hag saw his team come out victorious in their blockbuster Europa League tie with Barcelona last night but the focus has immediately switched to Sunday’s cup final. With such little time to prepare in between the two games, there was always a risk of fitness issues and it seems that one man who played last night is now a doubt for the final.
Marcus Rashford, who has been enjoying the season of his life, hobbled off the pitch after being substituted towards the end of the match last night and his manager has admitted that he doesn’t know if he will be fit in time for Sunday or not. He said:
“I don’t know if he’s fit. Players are coming in today and we have to do investigations – medical of course. We have to wait for a 100% diagnosis, so we have to wait.”
If Rashford does miss out on Sunday then Jadon Sancho will likely start off the left wing with Antony on the opposite side. The Brazilian came off the bench last night to score the winner and now looks a certainty to start at Wembley.
Silverware at the first time of asking?
Ten Hag has maintained all season that he is only interested in winning trophies and he could get his hands on some at the first time of asking on Sunday. While the Carabao Cup is the least glamorous of the four competitions United are currently competing in, it would a significant boost to the club after going five seasons without a trophy.
The last time United won a trophy was in 2017 when Jose Mourinho led them to the Europa League title in Stockholm.