Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag labelled Carabao Cup final opponents Newcastle “annoying”, warning his players and Sunday’s officials to be wary of their supposed time-wasting antics.
All eyes will be on Wembley on Sunday afternoon as the Red Devils look to end their six-year wait for a trophy against the success-starved Magpies, who have not won a trophy since 1969.
Ten Hag is excited for the occasion and this early shot at silverware, but the United boss is not taking Eddie Howe’s side lightly and suggested there could be some gamesmanship from Newcastle.
“I think it’s a great team with a clear philosophy about how they want to play the game,” Ten Hag said. “The key word is intensity.
“They do really well. They’re an annoying team to play against, so we have to find a way to win.
“They try to annoy you. We have to make sure that we play our game and we focus on our game.”
It was an eye-catching comment that was followed up by a message to referee David Coote – the kind of mind games Sir Alex Ferguson, who the Dutchman had dinner with this week, used to make before big games.
Asked if his “annoying” comment was in reference to time-wasting tactics, Ten Hag said: “For instance.
“The 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.”
Opta stats show that Leeds have had the ball in play marginally less than Newcastle over the course of the Premier League season.
The sports data company also said the ball was ‘in-play’ for 53.4 per cent of the match when United were held to a 0-0 draw by Newcastle at Old Trafford in October.
Newcastle goalkeeper Nick Pope has been accused of slowing the game down and will be absent through suspension at Wembley, where ex-Liverpool man Loris Karius is set to come in for his debut.
“I’m not in the instructions of the opponents, so I don’t know (if Newcastle will miss Pope),” Ten Hag said. “Also, I can’t influence that.
“I can only influence (our team). We have to make it our game, so focus on the job we have to do, focus on playing football when the ball is in the game. It’s about that, so fully concentrated on that.
“Don’t get distracted from what can be, whatever is on the pitch. We have to focus on the job and find our way and finds the moments where we can strike.”
United head to Wembley buoyed by Thursday’s impressive 2-1 comeback victory against Barcelona, seeing them through a tough Europa League knockout play-off tie 4-3 winners on aggregate.
Now comes the chance for Ten Hag to win a trophy in his first season at the helm like Jose Mourinho did in 2017, when Europa League glory followed a League Cup triumph in the February.
“It’s a great opportunity to get the silverware in,” Ten Hag said of Sunday.
“It’s all about that glory and honour in football and we deserve to play the final and we have a great opportunity to win the cup and we have to do everything to get that cup to Manchester. You feel it.
“The fans are really waiting for it and so we do everything we can to give the fans their honour.”