Seven months after lifting the trophy, Manchester United made a successful start to its defence of the English League Cup on Tuesday by beating Crystal Palace 3-0.
Alejandro Garnacho and Casemiro fired the holders into a 2-0 first-half lead at Old Trafford and Anthony Martial added a third after the break in the third-round match.
It is now back-to-back wins for Erik ten Hag’s team, which has endured a disappointing start to the season.
The dominant performance against an understrength Palace followed Saturday’s narrow victory at Burnley and will give United fans hope the team has turned its form around.
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“The mood is always good, but of course when you are not winning at United there is disappointment, and there is frustration, but the togetherness is always there,” Ten Hag said. “We know we are not now in the position where we want to be. So we have to build up, we have to catch up and then you have to go from game to game, working on the process and working on the results. Don’t get too far ahead.”
The League Cup ranks fourth among English soccer’s most important trophies. But Ten Hag still savored last season’s success.
Victory against Newcastle in February’s final at Wembley Stadium ended the club’s six-year wait for a trophy and saw Ten Hag deliver silverware in his first season at the club. He went on to also reach the FA Cup final, only to lose to Manchester City, and also guided United back into the Champions League to mark an impressive campaign.
Things have not gone so well this term, with his team losing four out of five games before beating Burnley 1-0.
This latest victory was far more convincing, even if Palace benched regular starters Marc Guehi, Eberechi Eze and Joachim Anderson and was also without forward Odsonne Edouard.
Ten Hag also made changes with Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford and Rasmus Hojlund on the bench and Christian Eriksen absent.
Mason Mount, however, made his first appearance since Aug. 19 after returning from an injury.
Garnacho fired United ahead in the 21st minute after converting Diogo Dalot’s cutback in the box.
His low shot had too much power for Palace goalkeeper Sam Johnstone, who had only just come on as a substitute for the injured Dean Henderson.
Johnstone was tested again moments later when Dalot blasted an effort from an angle, which the keeper blocked.
He was beaten again, however, in the 27th, this time by Casemiro, who headed in Mount’s corner to double United’s lead.
Martial added a third 10 minutes into the second half when firing across goal after meeting Casemiro’s looping ball to the far post.
United plays Palace again in the Premier League on Saturday and the Londoners showed their threat when twice forcing saves from ‘keeper Andre Onana later in the match. But manager Roy Hodgson did not sound confident about securing a different outcome when the teams next meet.
“We are going to have to become a totally different team in the way we approach the game and the way we play the game,” he said.
Third-division Exeter produced a shock 1-0 win against Luton to knock the Premier League club out of the competition. Luton made 10 changes from the team that picked up its first topflight point of the season against Wolverhampton on Saturday, but the result will still go down as a big upset. Demetri Mitchell scored the winner in the 83rd, but Exeter had to see out the game with 10 men after he was sent off in the 88th.
Wolverhampton was also eliminated after throwing away a two-goal lead to lose 3-2 at second-division Ipswich. Hwang Hee-Chan and Toti Gomes had seemingly put the visitors on course for the next round after goals inside the first 15 minutes. But Omari Hutchinson, Freddie Ladapo and Jack Taylor sealed a comeback win for Ipswich.
Burnley is still waiting for its first win in the league this season, but it is powering on in the cup after a 4-0 win against Salford City, the fourth division club co-owned by Manchester United greats including David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville.
Elsewhere, Middlesbrough beat Bradford 2-0 and Port Vale won 2-1 against Sutton United.
Fourth-division Mansfield beat third-division Peterborough 3-1 on penalty kicks after a 2-2 draw in regulation time. Lucas Akins’ penalty to even the score in the 93rd had sent the game to a shootout.
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