Man United will fight for the Carabao Cup on Sunday and Eddie Howe’s Newcastle stand in the way of a trophy at Wembley.
Manchester United should be represented by at least one Mancunian, Marcus Rashford, in the League Cup final on Sunday afternoon.
Rashford, Wythenshawe-born, has always supported United and he will have dreamed of playing at Wembley as a child, although that boy who harboured grand ambitions might not have imagined he would be where he is now, bordering on world-class ability.
The 25-year-old is enjoying the best season of his career and he’ll be hoping to extend his strong record at Wembley against Newcastle this weekend, provided he’s deemed fit enough to play after hurting his ankle on Thursday.
Rashford has lost twice at Wembley with United and both of those defeats came against Chelsea in the FA Cup. He’ll be aware of the club’s trophy drought more than anyone and he can play a key role in ending that barren run.
The Premier League is a global product and the best players around the world flock to British shores to play, but United supporters will always cherish having one of their own in the first-team, especially on an occasion like a cup final at Wembley.
Newcastle fans have that in common with their Mancunian counterparts. The North East club has fanatical support, despite their lack of success, and they’ll be loud and proud around Trafalgar Square and Covent Garden in London this weekend.
The thousands of supporters from Tyneside, who are set to make the pilgrimage to London, will also cherish seeing Sean Longstaff, who was once linked with a £50million transfer to Old Trafford, and Dan Burn in their starting line-up at Wembley.
Longstaff, who was once disillusioned with football with Steve Bruce in charge, has enjoyed an impressive renaissance since Eddie Howe’s appointment and Burn, who is a natural centre-back, has excelled at left-back, surprisingly.
Burn had mixed feelings when Newcastle were subject to a Saudi-led takeover, as he told his father he thought his chance of playing for his hometown club had gone, but he got the call he wanted last January and he’s been key in their ascension.
When Howe was recently asked whether it was important to have a strong local contingent in his squad, he said: “Absolutely. “I’m a strong believer in that. I’m a strong believer in local players coming through the system. They understand the club.
“They understand the feeling of the club. The guys [Longstaff and Burn] in particular, and Mark Gillespie, represent the club in such a good way, and also educate the new players coming in, and I think that’s such an important process.”
Howe appreciates Burn so much that he’s started a natural centre-back at left-back for 19 of his 22 starts in the Premier League this season, although there is a feeling that – standing at 6ft 6in – he could be vulnerable against United’s dynamic attackers.
When United and Newcastle met in October at Old Trafford, the game finished goalless and Burn started at left-back against Antony. Newcastle kept a clean sheet and Burn was hooked with 10 minutes to go, yet that could have happened sooner.
He picked up a yellow card in the first half for a cynical challenge and looked bound to be sent off up against a tricky Antony, who seems half his height. United searched for a winner in the latter stages and it was no surprise to see Burn substituted.
Burn is a capable defender and he’s earned his starting place in the defence that has conceded the fewest goals in the league this season, but he is vulnerable against elite, creative wingers and he should be targeted by Erik ten Hag at Wembley.
The pace of the Reds’ attack should cause him problems and Antony, in particular, whose confidence should be improved after scoring against Barcelona in the Europa League, should get the better of him in their personal duel.
Ten Hag described Antony as ‘fearless’ after defeating Barcelona and it will be his job to instil fear in Burn.