The sweet afterglow of Manchester United’s triumph in the 2023 Carabao Cup final must feel like a lifetime ago for Erik ten Hag.
United’s 2-0 showpiece victory over Newcastle United was indicative of the club’s supposed upward trajectory with Ten Hag at the helm. But, almost eight months on, questions have arisen regarding the Dutchman’s future in Manchester.
His Man Utd side were brushed aside on home soil yet again at the weekend, with Manchester City’s 3-0 victory depicting just how far the gap between the pair had broadened once again. It was a cakewalk.
Sunday’s humbling defeat renders Wednesday’s Carabao Cup fourth-round tie – a repeat of last season’s final – a significant one for United and Ten Hag. Here’s how the Red Devils could line up for Newcastle’s visit.
GK: Andre Onana – Sunday was one of Onana’s most impressive performances in United colours, yet he still conceded three times.
RB: Diogo Dalot – With Aaron Wan-Bissaka expected to return after the November international break, Ten Hag has few alternatives at right-back.
CB: Raphael Varane – Varane has seemingly been fit since the October break, but he hasn’t featured. He was an unused sub again at the weekend, but he should get the nod on Wednesday.
CB: Harry Maguire – The renaissance man. Maguire has returned to the fold amid United’s defensive injury crisis, although he’s no longer donning the armband. The England international should continue in the team over Jonny Evans and Victor Lindelof.
LB: Sergio Reguilon – Ten Hag curiously opted for Lindelof at left-back against Man City with his two favoured options still out. Given the Swede’s confused showing in the derby, Reguilon has to come back into the side.
CM: Sofyan Amrabat – It’s been a turbulent start to his United career, with Amrabat yet to star for the Red Devils. Nevertheless, with Casemiro still injured, the Moroccan should get another chance to impress at the base of midfield against Newcastle.
CM: Kobbie Mainoo – Could young Mainoo prove to be the source of enthusiasm United desperately need? The dynamic midfielder missed the start of the season with an ankle injury after impressing in the summer.
RM: Antony – He may not be the most inspiring of performers, but Antony was crucial to United’s attacking balance last season and the Brazilian should see an uptick in minutes over the next few weeks.
AM: Bruno Fernandes – The Portuguese playmaker is yet to ignite this season, but he’s almost always available and is unlikely to miss any game he’s fit for.
LM: Alejandro Garnacho – Marcus Rashford was the leading man amid United’s successful Carabao Cup journey this season, but Ten Hag will likely rotate the Englishman out of the side for this one.
ST: Rasmus Hojlund – The raw and athletic Hojlund has offered mere glimpses thus far, but there’s no denying that United could have something in the Dane. He’ll likely get another hour under his belt against the Magpies.