Man Utd and Newcastle are both going into Sunday’s Carabao Cup final hoping to end lengthy trophy droughts. The Red Devils are quite rightly the favourites given their incredible form, the momentum they have going into the showpiece at Wembley, and the fact the Magpies are without their first and second-choice goalkeepers.
As the favourites, it is no surprise to see Man Utd dominate our combined XI of the two sides.
GK: David de Gea (Man Utd)
Nick Pope’s suspension has made this a very straightforward decision. David de Gea is quite a strange one. He is very difficult to judge. One minute he is pulling off one of the saves of the season, then the next he is fumbling one in or kicking the ball straight at the opposition striker.
Pope is a lot more reliable, in my opinion, but not reliable enough to avoid missing Newcastle’s biggest game of the century. De Gea has been there and done it and even if I am not the biggest fan and believe Erik ten Hag has to buy a new goalkeeper, I have a lot of respect for him and what he has done for Man Utd.
RWB: Kieran Trippier (Newcastle)
Yes, that’s right, we are rocking a cheeky back five here, even though neither of these sides play with five defenders. But it felt necessary to do as a really good centre-back would have missed out if I didn’t.
For me, Kieran Trippier is comfortably better than Diogo Dalot and Aaron Wan-Bissaka – despite how well Ten Hag has got them playing – and is arguably Newcastle’s best signing under their new owners.
CB: Raphael Varane (Man Utd)
Four-time Champions League winner Raphael Varane had a pretty disappointing debut season at Old Trafford but now looks like the player Man Utd thought they initially signed.
Another success story under Ten Hag, Varane has developed one of the best defensive partnerships in the Premier League alongside Lisandro Martinez.
CB: Sven Botman (Newcastle)
Another wonderful piece of business by Newcastle, Sven Botman joined last summer after the Magpies had been chasing him since the 2022 January transfer window. They managed to beat Italian champions AC Milan to the Dutch defender’s signature and he only lost his first league game as a Geordie last weekend against Liverpool.
CB: Lisandro Martinez (Man Utd)
Man Utd have been really rubbish in the transfer market since Sir Alex Ferguson retired. However, Ten Hag’s summer signings have all been pretty fantastic, most of all Martinez.
It turns out you don’t need to know Our League and be over 6ft tall to be a success in England. Who knew?
LWB: Luke Shaw (Man Utd)
Luke Shaw seems to have one season on one season off and he has been bang at it this term. The England left-back looked like he had lost his place in Ten Hag’s strongest XI after a poor start to 2022-23, with Tyrell Malacia coming in and doing well. However, Shaw bounced back and has become undroppable.
DM: Casemiro (Man Utd)
Speaking of brilliant summer signings, Casemiro has not struggled to instantly adapt to life in the Premier League, unlike his former Real Madrid and now Red Devils teammate, Varane.
The Brazilian makes Man Utd a lot better whenever he plays and it is very clear to see whenever he is missing. I do wonder what the result would have been at Arsenal if he didn’t get suspended a few days prior. Speaking of suspensions, this will be his first domestic appearance since being sent off for throttling Crystal Palace’s Will Hughes three weeks ago.
CM: Bruno Fernandes (Man Utd)
Love him or hate him, you have to admit that Bruno Fernandes is a bloody good footballer. Thursday was not his best night, giving away a penalty and missing a sitter, but he captained his side to a massive win against Barcelona.
Fernandes may lose the ball pretty frequently, but that is to be expected given the way he plays. He is fearless with the ball at his feet and willing to take risks, which I salute.
CM: Bruno Guimaraes (Newcastle)
From one Bruno to another, Newcastle midfielder Bruno Guimaraes has been a revelation since moving to St James’ Park last January.
Seriously, what a fantastic player Guimaraes is. He is one of my favourite players to watch in the Premier League and every time I do it makes me angry that Edu didn’t bring him to Arsenal.
The former Lyon midfielder cost around £40million and is probably worth triple that a year on. When he doesn’t play, the Magpies struggle, much more so than Man Utd do without their Brazilian talisman. Guimaraes is also back just in time for the final after being sent off in the second leg of the semi-final against Southampton. In the three Premier League games he missed, Newcastle drew 1-1 twice and lost the other 2-0.
ST: Alexander Isak (Newcastle)
The vast majority of this team picked itself, but I had a difficult choice to make between Alexander Isak and Callum Wilson. I have given the edge to the former, even though the latter has a lot more experience. Ask Erik ten Hag if he would prefer Isak or Wilson in his team, I am pretty confident he would pick the Swede.
Isak has impressed me nearly every time I have watched him this season. He came off the bench and inspired the semi-final first-leg win over Southampton and scored in two of his first three Premier League starts before netting on his first appearance following a lengthy hamstring injury.
ST: Marcus Rashford (Man Utd)
This formation allows Marcus Rashford to play where he plays best, just off the left, with Isak more of a target man and out-and-out striker, who has the ability to run the channels.
Everyone knows how good Rashford has been this season so I won’t bore you with the details or stats. My analysis will go as far as saying he is pretty mint, isn’t he?
Manager: Erik ten Hag (Man Utd)
I know Man Utd are a huge club and they spent a lot of money last summer, but nobody can play down the incredible job Ten Hag is doing at Old Trafford.
Look at where they were this time last year. They were miles off it. Ten Hag has transformed how they play, recruited well, and most importantly, changed the whole atmosphere at the club and has fans wanting to come to Old Trafford again.
A quick word on Eddie Howe, though, who deserves an unlimited amount of praise. He is also doing a fantastic job and what I said about Ten Hag probably all applies to him.