What’s next for Man United after Carabao Cup win, Barca stumble in LaLiga, Chelsea free fall, more

We were lucky! We were in for another big weekend in European football as Manchester United won the Carabao Cup – the first trophy of the Erik ten Hag era – and Napoli took another huge step towards their first Serie A title since 1990. Meanwhile, Arsenal and Manchester City won to keep interest in the Premier League race, Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid shared the points in the derby and Bayern overtook another contender in the Bundesliga.

– Broadcasts on Sportzshala+: La Liga, Bundesliga and more (USA)

Elsewhere, we’ve had more heartbreak for Chelsea, more disappointment for Liverpool, a lot of disappointment for Xavi and Barcelona, ​​and another brilliant performance from Kylian Mbappé for Paris Saint-Germain.

It’s Monday and Gab Marcotti is reacting to the most important moments in the world of football.

Manchester United’s first trophy of the Erik ten Hag era, but there’s still a long way to go

Sometimes, in order to appreciate where you are, it is helpful to remember where you have been. And just over six months ago, Eric Ten Hag made his debut with consecutive defeats in the Premier League (2-1 at home to Brighton and 4-0 away from Brentford). Cristiano Ronaldo was still around, angry supporters were showing up outside the home of new chief executive Richard Arnold, and there was a sense that things could easily go from bad to ugly.

Many, including yours truly, wondered how effective Ten Hag football would be for this group of players (starting with Ronaldo). And the club’s insistence on signing players who, apart from Casemiro, appeared to be either Eredivisie graduates, did not bode well. But here we are.

The League Cup is what it is, but psychologically it matters because it is the first trophy the club has won since 2017, recording the longest trophy drought at Old Trafford since the early 1980s. And no, this is not a trinket won in isolation. United are third in the Premier League and they just eliminated La Liga leaders Barcelona in the Europa League.

Two things seem obvious. First, Ten Hag gets a lot of praise for showing a combination of toughness (from being unwavering in his stance towards Ronaldo when he didn’t feel he was tactically suited to discipline Marcus Rashford when he was late for game). , a strict managerial approach (the Rashford revival is example A) and pragmatism: he realized that United were not going to press high and dominate the ball like his teams from Ajax did, so he found another way.

The League Cup final is an example. United had 39% possession and nearly lost the xG battle to Newcastle, but they rarely felt threatened and managed the game skillfully after scoring two goals.

Secondly, there is still a way to get to where they want to be, and that’s okay: we’re only at the beginning of the journey. But imagine that in a couple of years the United team wins the Premier League or plays in the Champions League final. How many in this squad will be part of it?

Aside from Rashford and Lisandro Martinez, most of this season’s biggest contributors are in their 30s or so: Bruno Fernandes, Christian Eriksen, Raphael Varane, Casemiro and David De Gea. In other words, if this team continues to grow, it will need to replenish its stock of new talent and make the most of existing talent like Anthony and Jadon Sancho.

Ten Hag is not Sir Alex Ferguson and he works in a different era. It is imperative that he gets the right support in terms of intelligence and recruitment. Similarly, it should be clear that he is a coach and should be allowed to focus on that because that is his skill set. And while this is true in most situations, there is additional uncertainty at United about the club being up for sale, which only increases the possibility of errors.

– Ogden: How Ten Hag changed Manchester United
– Ten Hag jokes that he has “already moved on to the next cup.”
– Quick reaction: winning the League Cup is proof that United are on the right track.

As for Newcastle, the conventional wisdom is that they are ahead of schedule in their grand plan to become a European power. This is probably true, although I suspect that too many people are making the rich owner equals huge expenses equal to Paris Saint-Germain or Manchester City experience. The owners say they will grow organically and live within their means while maintaining Financial Fair Play. Whether we believe them or not, this is what they have done so far.

Given what they’ve been through, no one is going to criticize Eddie Howe. But if he’s going to lead them where they want to go, he’ll need to use Sunday as a teaching moment. Sometimes you learn more from defeats than from victories. Howe’s words that “some of these players will not return to Wembley” speak volumes.

For better or worse, the Madrid derby was all about Alvaro Rodriguez.

Remember the old adage that it’s not how many times you get knocked down that matters, but how many times you get up? Alvaro Rodriguez, who turned 18 last July, apparently received the note.

Coming on as a substitute with 13 minutes to go in a scoreless Madrid derby – only the second time for the first team – within a minute he let José María Jiménez get ahead of him to give Atlético the lead. . Seven minutes later, he redeemed himself by sending a powerful and accurate (albeit undetected) header past Jan Oblak to equalize.

This ability of a young player to learn from a mistake and immediately bounce back should not be underestimated. And it’s (almost) as impressive as its head EQ.

– Hunter: Messi-like Madrid prodigy lives up to derby hype

In addition, Real Madrid seemed to have paid a huge price for the middle stage of their huge trio, which took them to Liverpool, Saturday’s derby and the Copa del Rey last week. clasico on Thursday. Karim Benzema was out and Vinicius struggled to find a spot. Meanwhile, Carlo Ancelotti’s replacements in midfield – Toni Kroos and Dani Ceballos instead of Eduardo Camavinga and Luka Modric – were enough to keep them in the game, but not enough to break Atlético.

Barcelona’s surprise defeat the next day means they are one point closer to the top of the table, but seven points is plenty to make up for lost time. If Barça don’t explode, Real Madrid needs to step up and that’s a big problem when you’re fighting on three fronts.

As for Atlético, they had few breaks that day. Reinildo’s injury in the 23rd minute was a serious blow to the body, as was the fact that his season was likely over and Angel Correa’s red card was completely compromised by referee Gil Manzano. Diego Simeone has some positives to take from this game, although, again, he is in a thin line with Real Betis, just two points behind.

Bayern destroy the fairy tale with a resounding victory … and now Mane is back

I think it’s fair to say that most of the neutral players were very supportive of Union Berlin when they went to play against Bayern Munich this Sunday. A small engine that could, an underdog team from the capital outpacing a juggernaut at the top of the Bundesliga… well, that didn’t happen.

The numbers are not the true truth, but they are not hardened liars either. Union Berlin topped the table with a negative expected goal difference for one reason: they’ve had a lot of breaks this season and the regression to the average catches up with you. Especially when you face a Bayern team with a big chip on their shoulder after losing 3-2 to Borussia Mönchengladbach last weekend.

Bayern ended the game 3-0 in the first half but could have easily scored more. Kingsley Coman ran rampant down the flank, Matthijs De Ligt was the de facto playmaker and Jamal Musiala worked wonders from midfield. Benjamin Pavard, called from behind, was bossy – now there’s something I never expected to write – and that’s not all.

For example, Sadio Mane played his first minutes after injury in early November. He could be a real added value for Bayern in the future. Even as we chronicled Bayern’s ups and downs this season, far too many forgot that the man who signed Robert Lewandowski missed most of the campaign himself.

Chelsea’s free fall continues against Tottenham

Figures straight out of a horror show. Six games without a league win (the last time was in 2013). One win and four goals scored in 2023. Two wins in last 15 games in all competitions. Chelsea are in a bad position right now and while there are many reasons for this, sacking Graham Potter will just create more chaos.

Potter admits Chelsea job is in jeopardy
– Reaction: The Spurs defeat puts more pressure on Potter and Chelsea.

It’s not about whether Potter “deserves” to keep his job; it’s about whether you can attract someone who can do better in the long run and whether you know enough about Potter to be sure he’s not the guy. On the first criterion, the answer is no – the time to find a replacement if you need one is May, and that’s when you’ll have more Potter data points. Of course, money stops there, but – news! “Chelsea are not going anywhere this season. Now there is no point in changing something with some temporary guy. Assess where you are in May.

As for Spurs, once again without Antonio Conte recuperating in Turin, they have won three home matches against strong opponents (Manchester City, West Ham and now Chelsea). That’s enough to suggest that the horrific defeat to Leicester was just a flash and they’re on the right track. There’s a lot of uncertainty hanging over the club – Conte’s future, a potential sale – but everyone agrees that now that they’re on the Champions League rosters, they can’t afford to let them go.

Barcelona lose to Almeria in ‘worst game of the season’

Hey, those are Javi’s words, not mine… and he’s right. Barcelona created little for most of the game, which only increased the importance of Pedri and Ousmane Dembele to this team. Without the first midfield, they felt one inappropriate pass …


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