The inaugural piece of domestic silverware is up for grabs at Wembley Stadium on Sunday afternoon, as Manchester United and Newcastle United lock horns with the chance to end their respective silverware-less streaks.
The Red Devils thumped Nottingham Forest 5-0 on aggregate to book their tickets to the showpiece event, while Eddie Howe’s rising stars defeated Southampton 3-1 over two legs in the semi-finals.
Erik ten Hag still has a long and arduous journey ahead of him to restore Man United to their former glories, but beating Barcelona and winning a trophy within the space of a few days would be a monumental step in the right direction for the much-admired Dutchman.
The Red Devils will be stepping out onto the Wembley turf for their 10th EFL Cup final on Sunday – five of their previous nine have ended with the Manchester powerhouses lifting the trophy aloft – and whatever transpires over the course of 90 or 120 minutes this weekend, Ten Hag will already make history as the first-ever Dutch manager to take charge in an EFL Cup final.
Hearts were in mouths on Friday morning when Marcus Rashford hinted at a possible injury concern on social media after limping out of the clash with Barcelona, but he will no doubt do everything in his power to be fit for the final.
The Red Devils are also guaranteed to be without long-term absentees Christian Eriksen and Donny van de Beek, while Anthony Martial is also unlikely to be back from a hip problem for the final.
However, Antony and Harry Maguire shook off their knocks to return for Thursday’s game, and the former’s telling impact off the bench means that he may have played his way into a start over Wout Weghorst, who was hooked at halftime against Barcelona following another ineffective display – that is assuming Rashford’s knock is not too serious, though.
Of course, Weghorst is one of the few players who can go toe-to-toe physically with Dan Burn, but his run of 11 consecutive starts may come to an end if Ten Hag decides that the reinvigorated Jadon Sancho has done enough to justify an appearance from the first whistle at Wembley
Manchester United possible starting lineup:
De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Martinez, Shaw; Casemiro, Fred; Antony, Fernandes, Sancho; Rashford