Champions Next Year? The Key Role The League Cup Has Played In Man Utd's History

Manchester United face Nottingham Forest in the Carabao Cup semi-final with a 3-0 advantage
11:00, 01 Feb 2023

Barring a complete and utter disaster at Old Trafford, Manchester United will compete in the Carabao Cup final later this month. Their 3-0 demolition of Nottingham Forest in the first leg has surely secured their spot in the Wembley final against Newcastle United on February 26. 

This season, the desire to win the competition is clear. Erik ten Hag would love to lift silverware in his very first season and end Manchester United’s five and half year wait for a trophy. The half decade since they won the Europa League and Carabao Cup in the same season under Jose Mourinho has been one of frustration - but it finally seems like the Red Devils have turned a corner under their Dutch boss. 

Although the difference from last season is clear on the pitch, with new signings and performances turning United into a real force again - a trophy would start the wheels in motion for future success. For all of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s good work, it was a monkey he was never able to get off his back. 


The League Cup is pivotal for match-going reds this term and there’s no doubt it would kick-start Ten Hag’s reign in a meaningful way. A trophy silences any doubters - not that there are many given the start the former Ajax man has made. But the League Cup has been more important for United than many may realise. 

For them, as with all clubs, the League Cup has been undervalued. But winning it has been key in several seasons. The FA Cup win in 1989-90 may have been the trophy that saved Fergie’s job - but the League Cup was the one that inspired them to become relentless winners. When they won the final against Nottingham Forest they were also top of the league, and although they lost the title to Leeds United in the closing stages of the season, that Wembley final was important. 

Brian McClair’s winner delivered them their first League Cup success in their history, and Ferguson had the spine of a team he knew would be league champions, even if it didn’t happen that season. Peter Schmeichel, Steve Bruce, Gary Pallister, Paul Ince and Mark Hughes were all hugely important, before Eric Cantona’s arrival in November ‘92 added the sprinkling of magic that squad needed. 

It would take 14 years for them to win the League Cup again, but Fergie once again used it as a springboard. United had been well and truly knocked off their perch domestically. After a decade of dominance, Arsene Wenger’s Invincibles and then Jose Mourinho’s bank-rolled Chelsea had denied them of a league title for three consecutive seasons. In 2004/05 they unthinkably didn’t win anything at all - something that was far more shocking that it is today. 

In 2005/06 they needed that winning mentality instilled back into them. Once again Mourinho ran away with the title, but the League Cup provided the opportunity for United to finally get their hands on silverware again, as they thumped Wigan 4-0 in the final. We can’t say exactly how important this turned out to be, but Fergie’s side went from zero league titles in three years, to three on the bounce, as well as a Champions League triumph in 2008. 

It was a remarkable spell which also saw them pick up another League Cup in 2009 and 2010. In fact, even though they didn’t win the league in 2010, the cup success saw domestic glory follow soon after. Just as night follows day, Manchester United won the Premier League the season after winning the League Cup - just as they had in 1992 and 2007.

Even under Jose Mourinho amid turmoil, after winning the League Cup the club enjoyed their joint-best league performance in the last nine years. Mourinho, who loved the League Cup at Chelsea, led an underwhelming Man Utd side to second place, behind Pep Guardiola’s Man City. 

So perhaps it’s time to start raising the importance of winning the Carabao Cup. For United in their past, it has been absolutely vital to success the following season. The chance for Ten Hag to get off the mark with a trophy early, while paving the way for more glory next season, is one he can’t afford to miss. 

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Man Utd are 4/6 to win the Carabao Cup*
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