Kalvin Phillips struggles in midfield for Manchester City, a huge win for Nathan Jones and Southampton, Dan Burn fires Newcastle closer to ending their trophy drought and Marcus Rashford's red-hot streak continues for Manchester United
Thursday 12 January 2023 12:31, UK
As the clock ticked on at St Mary's - a thought crossed my mind that maybe someone should tell Manchester City they were losing 2-0 in a cup competition. It was a performance so out of sync with the reality this team usually produces. Yes, Pep Guardiola's side can lose matches - but rarely do they lose, get outplayed and offer zero attempts on target on the opposition goal. Southampton richly deserved their place in the semi-finals as noted by Guardiola in his post-match press duties.
A lack of urgency and intensity was clearly lacking throughout but it was the first-half display that set the tone for City's shortcomings, notably the performances of Kalvin Phillips and Sergio Gomez, who were exposed by a feisty, in-your-face opposition that clearly targeted perhaps a lack of match practice and confidence in both players. That was on full show for the opening goal when Phillips and then Gomez both lost possession which created the Southampton counter.
As Jamie Redknapp referenced, Phillips looked a different player to the one we saw at Leeds, albeit it's still early stays.
He said: "One of the things I really admired about him at Leeds was that he was tenacious. He would get after people. There was a bit of spite and aggression about him.
"Now he's gone to City and he probably thinks he's just going to play easy here, keep it simple and just be a bit passive in his movements.
"That for me isn't what he's about."
The empty seats at St Mary's told a story of their own at kick-off. With the club bottom of the Premier League, the faith seemed to have evaporated and enthusiasm had waned.
But it was a huge statement performance from Southampton and for Nathan Jones. A win fully deserved, capped by two excellent goals, against a side that were expected to breeze past them.
It is another stepping stone after their victory at Crystal Palace in the FA Cup at the weekend. They are the type of performances they need to take back into the league, and the Saints faithful may just start believing again.
When Dean Henderson joined Nottingham Forest on loan from Manchester United in the summer, he was refreshingly frank in his assessment of a season spent on the bench at Old Trafford off the back of two successful loans at Sheffield United and impressive form for United in 2020/21. "To sit there and waste 12 months is criminal really, at my age. I was fuming," he revealed.
The goalkeeper has five Premier League clean sheets in 17 appearances so far this season and has made the joint-sixth highest number of saves in the division with 54, though he probably would have hoped for things to have gone a tad better than they have so far; he has conceded 34 goals in 19 appearances in all competitions, representing an average of 1.79 per game, for context.
But against Wolves at the City Ground, he illustrated the talent that saw him previously tipped to be England's long-term No 1 is very much alive and well and truly kicking.
During the initial 90 minutes, the 25-year-old made excellent saves to deny both Jimenez and Hwang and prevent Wolves capitalising on the head of steam they had built up and then, in the shoot-out, continued his inspired form to send Forest to the semi-finals of the League Cup for the first time in over three decades.
He could not contain his elation after keeping out Joe Hodge's spot-kick and slid to the touchline as though he had won the competition for his side. Who could blame him?
The worst part, though, is that the Reds drew Henderson's parent club in the last four, meaning he will be ineligible to face them and prove to them, first-hand, what he is really capable of. Sadly, life comes at you fast sometimes.
The cool finish. The Gallowgate End. The knee slide. That dressing room dance.
It was a night Dan Burn will never forget.
A fitting moment that it was truly one of Newcastle's own that ended so many years of hurt within the fanbase when it comes to cup runs. A club of their size should be boasting significantly more cup heritage than stands in the history books. Burn's goal sent them on their way to a first semi-final since 2005 and ended a run of seven straight defeats in League Cup quarter-finals.
He said of his goal: "Sitting in the East Stand I've always thought about scoring that goal in front of the Gallowgate End - my family are up in that corner too, so it was absolutely amazing. I like playing the position as you get to bomb forward more. It must be entertaining watching a guy my size running up and down that line."
As Eddie Howe said, Burn moves very well for a big man - on and off the dancefloor.
He has deserved this moment too since joining from Brighton in January last year. Not many people, even himself, would have thought that with such riches at Newcastle's disposal, he'd become a mainstay in defence especially playing as a left-back. Yet, he has started 33 of 34 Premier League games since his debut in February. Newcastle have averaged a whopping two points per-game with him in the side and can boast the best defence in the Premier League this season.
Burn is a huge part of that unit but has been largely unsung outside of Tyneside despite his immense consistency. He might not be your orthodox left-back but there aren't many better around than Newcastle's local hero.
"I think I'm a decent coach, but I'm not a magician," said Brendan Rodgers in the build-up to Leicester's defeat at Newcastle. "If you look at our net spend since I've been here, it's about £10m, in three-and-half years."
He wasn't wrong. There was a tiredness about Leicester at St James's Park that suggests this was a side that had run its course and in need of a refresh. No James Maddison since the restart has highlighted how badly they were reliant in him, and age looks like it has finally caught up with Jamie Vardy this season.
For so long he has been Leicester's reliable talisman and goal-getter, but at 2-0 down, already the substitute missed two great chances to try and get his side back into the tie. He turns 36 this week and Patson Daka's performance in the first 64 minutes suggests they are still in search of his replacement.
There is work for Rodgers to do and he will need backing if he is to turn the Foxes back into the kind of threat they were a couple of seasons ago.
It's a date Manchester United supporters will have marked in the diary as their side's resurgence under Erik ten Hag continues to gather pace. It may be premature, especially with Manchester City still in the competition, but it would take a brave person to bet against United winning the Carabao Cup next month.
They may have only beaten Charlton, a team sitting 12th in the third tier of English football, but it is now eight consecutive wins in all competitions for Ten Hag's team. It's nine victories in a row at Old Trafford. Unexpectedly, United have dragged themselves into the Premier League title race in recent weeks and remain alive in three cup competitions.
Ten Hag won six trophies with Ajax, including three Eredivisie titles. But steering United to Carabao Cup glory in his debut campaign would rank as one of his best achievements and should not be underestimated either. It could be the catalyst for more significant silverware. It was, after all, Pep Guardiola's first major honour as Manchester City manager. He's won eight more since.
Success at Wembley would also strengthen Ten Hag's hand and serve as a reminder of the progress he's made since taking charge of United last summer. His win rate is an impressive 74 per cent after 27 matches - better than Guardiola's after the same number of games with City - and that's despite Ten Hag losing his opening two fixtures in August. He's made some big calls already during his short reign. So far, they've been vindicated.
There is still a long way to go in this unprecedented season, but under the meticulous and no-nonsense Dutchman, United finally look capable of ending their six-year trophy drought.
"United are coming back," Guardiola said in October. After a run of 15 wins in 18 games since a 6-3 defeat at the Etihad, Ten Hag is proving his old colleague right.
Saturday's Premier League clash between the two Manchester clubs is now a much more difficult one to call.
With eight straight wins under their belts, it goes without saying that Manchester United are in scintillating form at the moment.
There have, of course, been superb performances all over the pitch of late, but one man is deservedly taking all the headlines: Marcus Rashford. Since the 25-year-old has returned from the World Cup, he has performed like a man possessed.
Rashford has now scored in every single one of his last six games, with his seven goals since the restart the most of any Premier League player. His double against Charlton means he has now scored in eight successive games at Old Trafford, too, and become the first player to achieve the feat since Wayne Rooney more than a decade ago.
The forward has certainly rediscovered the fearlessness that had left his game when he was struggling to build up a head of steam last term, which was highlighted in his substitute appearance against the Addicks.
He had just 10 touches of the ball in the half-an-hour he played, yet shattered the lingering anxiety that the plucky League One side would have enough to force a penalty shootout with two cool finishes that sealed the victory in normal time, albeit by a slightly flattering scoreline.
Rashford held his nerve to prod past an onrushing Ashley Maynard-Brewer in the 90th minute for his first and then took full advantage of VAR not being in operation to slam home after a smart ball from Casemiro despite a hint of offside in the build-up.
In this vein of form, no one can touch him - and Ten Hag's side are reaping all of the benefits.