Manchester United eased through their EFL Cup semi-final second leg with Nottingham Forest to book a 1999 Wembley rematch with Newcastle.
Second-half goals from Anthony Martial and Fred ensured victory on the night for Erik ten Hag’s side, even though a place in the final was virtually secure anyway thanks to their 3-0 first-leg triumph at the City Ground.
Martial marked his return from a four-match injury absence by driving home his sixth goal of the season, after a pass intended for Marcus Rashford deflected back to the French striker 17 minutes from time.
Within 180 seconds, United had another when Bruno Fernandes picked out Rashford with a brilliant curling cross-field pass, which the England man turned into the path of Fred, who nudged the ball into an empty net from barely a yard out with his knee.
New signing Marcel Sabitzer watched from an executive box as United put themselves within one victory of their first trophy since 2017.
There was also a return to action for Jadon Sancho, who had not featured since October after Ten Hag put the England winger on an individual training programme in an effort to recover his form amid physical and mental issues.
While their barren run does not compare with that of Newcastle, United know that if they fail to win a trophy this season it will be the club’s longest spell without silverware since the nine years after their European Cup triumph in 1968.
Manager Ten Hag made reference to the demands placed upon him in his programme notes, saying: “This club must always aim to be chasing honours.”
For the next three months at least, they will do so without Christian Eriksen, whose ankle injury has robbed United of arguably their most creative force.
The returns of Martial and Sancho are therefore well-timed.
Ten Hag views Martial as his optimum number nine, whose fluidity and movement is capable of causing problems for any defence.
Sancho’s talent for direct running is well known, even if it has not been seen that much since he returned to England from Borussia Dortmund in 2021.
United beat Newcastle in the FA Cup final 24 years ago in the second leg of their historic treble.
They will be acutely aware their task this time around will not be made any easier by the fact they must entertain Barcelona in the Europa League three days before the EFL Cup final on 26 February.