Gary Neville has identified what he believes to be the big advantage Manchester United now have over Newcastle United going into Sunday’s Carabao Cup Final.
Pope is one man, Newcastle are a team
So, addressing the elephant in the room: We all know that Gary Neville isn’t exactly impartial when it comes to Manchester United – yes he’s criticised them in the past, but his allegiance is well documented and laid bare for all to see. It won’t stop Sky Sports having him on co-commentating duties on Sunday, I’m sure, but I digress.
It will come as no shock, then, that Neville is backing his beloved Manchester United to get the win on Sunday at the expense of Eddie Howe’s men, and key to his confidence is the Nick Pope situation.
Neville has singled out Nick Pope‘s suspension as the area that will give Manchester United the edge: “Newcastle not having (Nick) Pope for the Carabao Cup final on Sunday is a blow to them. But it’s a cup final.
“Newcastle will be desperate to win, just as Man Utd will be. But it has to be an advantage to United for Newcastle to lose such an important player.”
It’s hard to say that Newcastle losing Pope shouldn’t be seen as some big gift to the opposition, especially when you consider how integral Pope has been to Newcastle’s success this season, but we have to remember, the defence ahead of him rendered Pope largely surplus to requirements for a good spell of games with Pope only having one or two saves to make per game.
So while it’s a sucker-punch, that (usually) rock solid defence is still in place, and although they were exposed a few times by Liverpool at the weekend, they remain an effective unit overall, and they are really the key to keeping the likes of Marcus Rashford at bay with Loris Karius a last resort.
Things are finely balanced ahead of the final
On the flip side, Newcastle’s struggles of late could be put down to not having the quality of Bruno Guimaraes in the midfield, and he is set to return on Sunday, so if anything, that should balance the scales.
Manchester United may have the edge in terms of form and that they have Rashford who is scoring goals for fun at the minute, but they also have a huge game on Thursday evening against Barcelona, which isn’t the type of game you can rest your big players for, so again, balanced scales – a point echoed by Neville.
As Neville also points out, both sides are desperate for a trophy, albeit for slightly different reasons. Newcastle’s silverware drought eclipses that of Manchester United’s, but for a club so used to winning things for so long, their current 10-year barren spell has to be seen as a cause for concern.