Special win against Barcelona sets up first Cup final

Victory against Barcelona has always been special for Manchester United. Bryan Robson got the better of Diego Maradona to reverse a two goal deficit to win 3-0 at Old Trafford in 1984 Cup Winners Cup, later in 1991 beat Barcelona to win Cup Winners Cup courtesy two goals from Mark Hughes, and a Paul Scholes strike edged United to a Champions' League final in 2008. Erik ten Hag had called for fans to play their part and Public Announcement systems were off 15 minutes before kick-off to allow fans voice to be heard. It worked wonders despite United having a poor first half. To come from a goal behind and beat Barcelona, who are 8-points clear at the top of La Liga is no easy achievement. Pair of Brazilians did the scoring in Fred who kept Frenkie de Jong in-check and substitute Anthony who got the winner answering his doubters in best possible way. Marcus Rashford had to be subbed after being shrugged off the ball in 81st minute.

In the end United had 12 shots on target to Barcelona's 6. Turnaround completed not only in the match by Erik ten Hag but also at the club who are still fighting in all 4 competitions: Carabao Cup, FA Cup, Europa League, and English Premier League. ETH lost opening two games to Brighton and Brentford, Ronaldo ran away before the World Cup, unavailability of Jadon Sancho, injury to influential Christian Eriksen late in January. None of these challenges fazed the gaffer who has improved most of the players in the team and none more so than a certain Marcus Rashford has been so exceptional that he can achieve the 30 goals landmark last achieved by Robin van Persie in 2012-13 if he remains injury free. ETH met Sir Alex Ferguson for lunch last week just about sums up the fantastic job that he is doing at United. Earlier Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) issued a statement on takeover process “Any prospective bidder needs to explicitly commit to backing Erik and his plans to restore United to glory."

Takeover process being conducted by Raine group reached a milestone when deadline to submit bids closed with four parties reported to have been interested. Only two of those have come out publicly. First bid is from Qatar by Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani for a full takeover which could break Chelsea's record sale of 4.25 billion pounds and second by Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the founder of chemicals giant Ineos for a majority stake but not a full takeover. Two other bids are supposed to be from Saudi Arabia and a group of US investors. Qatari bid is seen as the one which can invest massively to re-develop Old Trafford despite concerns from Amnesty International, while Ratcliffe being a lifelong United fan who had previously bid for Chelsea can usher in reform in English football club ownership with the advent of government's official regulator "We also recognise that football governance in this country is at a crossroads. We would want to help lead this next chapter, deepening the culture of English football by making the club a beacon for a modern, progressive, fan-centred approach to ownership." Hope the Glazers do not make a U-turn seeing the success on the pitch.

United face another united in Newcastle on Sunday in Carabao Cup final. Both clubs have improved tremendously this season being in top five in Premier League. With Guimares, Botman, Isak in their ranks Newcastle can challenge the very best while Eddie Howe their manager can conjure innumerable ways to score is a potent combination thats driving the Geordie's club that was recently taken over by Saudi Arabia's PIF group. United beat Newcatle in 1999 FA Cup final to clinch their 3rd double in six years before completing the treble in that historic year. Casemiro versus Guimares is a key battle that can decide the outcome of the game. United might have more winners in their squad but in sport the majority always support the underdogs. Newcatle's first domestic cup final since 1999 and its been 68 years since they last won a domestic trophy.

Newcastle's last trophy was Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1969 and en-route they beat Glasgow Rangers in semi-finals when a certain striker Alex Ferguson was kept out of the squad. Newcastle were also one of first clubs to be interested in signing the same Scottish youth international when he was an apprentice with Queen's Park. United had tough time in their unsuccessful pursuit of rare talents from Newcastle such as Peter Beardsley, Paul Gascoigne, Alan Shearer while the great Andy Cole turned out to be an outstanding success who is still placed 4th in Premier League overall goals tally with 187! Manchester United have their own Gerodie legends most notably in Bryan Robson, Steve Bruce and Michael Carrick. Sir Alex Ferguson the master of mind-games rightly questioned Leeds United who would lift their game while playing against United rather than others and cited this as one of the main reasons for their struggles near bottom of the table under Howard Wilkinson, who incidentally sat next to Ferguson during their recent win at home to Barcelona. Leeds were to play Newcastle next who were leading United at the top of the table and Kevin Keegan took offence to explode emotionally after beating Leeds "..I'll tell him now if he's watching it. We're still fighting for this title... And I'll tell you something - I will love it if we beat them, love it."

Erik ten Hag seems to have picked a few hints from meeting Ferguson midweek by terming Newcastle as 'annoying' for a lowly 52.3% effective match time and explained it further "For instance, referees want to play effective time. They have the lowest in the league and they are quite successful with it. So it's up to us that we get speed in the game, but also we are then dependent on the refereeing as well". This puts referees on the spot. In '99 FA Cup final Gary Speed tackled captain Roy Keane out of the match in 8th minute itself that forced Ferguson to bring Sheringham and switch Solskjaer to right wing. Sheringham set the tempo of intricate passing with Scholes and Beckham to give a man of the match performance with a goal and an assist. This just shades Cantona's triumphful return from suspension to beat Newcastle 1-0 and Rooney's thunderbolt volley. United did not embrace English Football's newest trophy the League Cup which debuted in 1960-61 and won their first of five trophies only in 1992 beating Nottingham Forest 1-0 which had young Roy Keane and Teddy Sheringham. Its time to make history again! 

Wembley,
Wembley,
We're the famous Man United and we're off to Wembley,.

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