Thousands of Manchester United scarves were raised to the sky in celebration as the large Wembley scoreboard reached 90 minutes, finally bringing back a long-forgotten sensation.
And the guy who is paving the path for a new era for Manchester United away from the wastelands they have been occupying since their last win in the 2017 Europa League Final stood immobile in his technical area.
Win of the EFL Cup. The final few minutes were really a formality, as was this victory when Manchester United scored twice in the first six minutes of the second half, a lead they held comfortably despite a valiant second-half effort from a desperately defensive Newcastle United.
With his air of authority and tactical knowledge, Erik ten Hag has the feel of a transformative manager, and he now has a trophy to prove it. Manchester United has been yearning for this kind of victory for almost six years.
After winning the Carabao Cup, Manchester United said they needed more trophies.
Inside Erik ten Hag’s revolution at Manchester United
Ten Hag has won the first trophy he could, capping off a week in which Barcelona was also eliminated from the Europa League on a thundering night at Old Trafford. It is too early to draw any firm conclusions, though, as Ten Hag is just a few months into his position.
Yet, there has been a shift in the club’s atmosphere, and Ten Hag’s efforts has played a key role in it.
The ugly 4-0 defeat at Brentford in United’s second league game appears more like a turning point as the opening weekend loss at home to Brighton feels like a lifetime ago.
After that defeat, in which United conceded four goals in the first half, Ten Hag ordered his men to run 13.8 kilometers, the distance by which Brentford had defeated his team the day before.
In addition to making it obvious that the mistakes made at Brentford would not be accepted, the 53-year-old led his team on the retreat, emphasizing the importance of teamwork and collective accountability throughout his management tenure. As everyone was involved, the problems that had been allowed to develop prior to his arrival were immediately fixed.
Ten Hag’s team defeated arch-rival Liverpool in their ensuing match, and they haven’t looked back since. Liverpool had defeated United twice in the Premier League last season, with an embarrassing 9-0 combined score.
The Dutchman also adopted a strategy from one of his Old Trafford predecessors, Jose Mourinho, the manager in charge of those most recent victories, by giving the League Cup major emphasis in an effort to rapidly add the first trophy to the cabinet.
Ten Hag is increasingly seen by United and its supporters as the one who can lead them forward and into the elite, where they have been lost for much of the last few years.
His status and reputation will only grow stronger as a result of the EFL Cup victory.
The decisive response to Cristiano Ronaldo’s public insurrection, the punishment meted out to Marcus Rashford after he overslept and missed a team meeting, and the exclusion of club captain Harry Maguire from Ten Hag’s first-choice team following a protracted run of poor form prove beyond a shadow of a doubt who is in charge at United right now.
The night before this final, Ten Hag and Sir Alex Ferguson enjoyed dinner together. Now that Manchester United has won, their next meeting will feature another trophy for the Red Devils.
Two fresh additions this season have only bolstered the idea that United are on the right track after years of subpar leadership and mediocre signings.
While Casemiro’s move from Real Madrid to Manchester City in August came with a price tag that might reach £70 million, it also carried with it the class, street smarts, and experience gained from five Champions League victories.
The fact that the Brazilian was named man of the match in this instance shows that he understands what it takes to prevail. In addition to scoring the crucial opening goal, he had a significant impact throughout Wembley thanks to his positioning, passing range, and his ability to be in the right place at the right time.
In the second half, after winning a challenge in the penalty area, he even served as the orchestrator of United’s supporters by pumping his fist in their direction.
Also, United has a fierce defensive rival in Lisandro Martinez who gives them a steely edge. The feisty figure, who quickly adjusted to the demands of the Premier League despite a rocky start in which his short stature became a talking point, is already revered by United supporters. Now, it doesn’t seem like much of a problem.
Ten Hag can now focus on United’s pursuit of a return to the Champions League since they are comfortably positioned in the top four. He will also be keeping an eye on the Europa League and the FA Cup.
The primary requirement at Old Trafford, which Ten Hag rapidly learned, is to win trophies. With this Wembley victory, Ten Hag has begun to gratify this craving.