Except, that team would not be winning at Old Trafford for just the second time in half a century. Eddie Howe’s did, and that owes everything to the system installed and spirit instilled under his management.
His side weren’t just down to the bare bones, the wicked gods of injury helped themselves to some marrow inside 90 seconds when Matt Targett fell victim to a hamstring strain.
He, incidentally, was one of six full-backs in a line-up that did not include a recognised centre back or centre forward. The Magpies were without seven senior players and this, without doubt, was the weakest team named in two years of Saudi-led ownership. At least, on paper.
On grass, Newcastle’s patchwork quilt smothered Manchester United. They are now three games from a first domestic trophy in 69 years and, having eliminated both Manchester clubs, are second favourites to Liverpool to win a competition in which they lost last season’s final.
Newcastle were sensational at Old Trafford despite being down to the bare bones
That was against Wednesday night’s opponents, but how the narrative has changed for the two Uniteds in the intervening eight months. Newcastle were sensational here, Manchester sensationally bad.
It was not supposed to play out like that when the team-sheets landed. It read like Newcastle were serving notice of their intended withdrawal from the competition. There were eight changes, two full-backs at centre back — who had made only one start between them in 14 months — and winger Anthony Gordon deployed as a striker. Indeed, their back five had not started a Premier League or Champions League game all season.
As one supporter remarked before kick-off, ‘We will get absolutely walloped.’ It was, though, Newcastle doing the walloping. The understudies took centre stage and, maybe, some of them will now emerge as leading men.
Mail Sport, on the eve of this tie, questioned the wisdom of the club committing close to £70million on young defenders Tino Livramento and Lewis Hall if they were not going to be used beyond the Carabao Cup.
On Saturday, during a 2-2 draw at Wolves in which Newcastle were stretched because of injury, they were unused substitutes. That should change now.
Defender Lewis Hall seized his chance to show that he have an impact this season
Victory over Man United owed everything to the system and spirit instilled by Eddie Howe
Both players were outstanding and not only showed potential for tomorrow, but why they can impact today. We noted this week how the pair could be England’s starting full-backs at Euro 2028. World Cup 2026 may be a more realistic target on this evidence.
Miguel Almiron scored the opening goal but if ever an assist was worth just as much, then it was Livramento’s here. Robbing Hannibal deep inside his own half, he could have rolled a pass to a team-mate. Instead, Livramento showed drive and desire to charge 60 yards — beating two more men — before slipping Almiron in on goal. The Paraguayan did the rest with a tidy finish.
Hall then smashed Newcastle’s second with a volley of class and composure on 37 minutes before Joe Willock, making his first start of the season, burst through United’s defence and added a third in the second half. Willock looked as if he had not missed a minute during the previous five months in which he has battled hamstring and Achilles injuries.
Newcastle are now into the last eight, the stage at which, last season, Howe began to field stronger teams with Wembley in sight. He may well look at this performance and wonder if that is even necessary this time around.
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