Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has told his players a Wembley appearance will mean nothing unless they beat Newcastle in the EFL Cup final on 26 February.
Second-half goals from Anthony Martial and Fred eased United to a 5-0 aggregate win over Nottingham Forest at Old Trafford.
It confirmed United’s first domestic final appearance since 2018 and puts them a win away from ending their six-year wait for a trophy.
The match also saw the return of Jadon Sancho, a £73m signing from Borussia Dortmund in 2021, after a three-month absence and a scoring return from injury from Martial.
‘It’s about winning it’
Ten Hag, who won the Dutch (KNVB) Cup once as a player with Twente and twice as a manager during his time at Ajax, has guided Man Utd to fourth place in the Premier League and they are still in the FA Cup, Europa League and EFL Cup.
“It’s great but you play finals to win. It is not an achievement to come into a final,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live: “We want to win them but first we have other things to do. We come back to the Premier League and bury this cup.
“It is good to reach the final but it is not about reaching the final, it is about winning it.
“Now the focus is on the Premier League, in two days it will continue. It has to give the motivation in the first place, we want to bring that cup to the fans.
“But in this moment I’m not looking ahead, we’re focusing on other things, a big week is coming up, we have Crystal Palace and then two games against Leeds and they are going to be great games, derby games that we are looking forward to.”
His words were echoed by England full-back Luke Shaw, who returned to the starting line-up after a recent illness.
“It’s extremely pleasing but there’s no point going to a final if we don’t win it,” Shaw told Sky Sports.
Ten Hag also said he couldn’t think about Newcastle with six matches in the Premier League and Europa League between now and the final as his side continue their bid for a top-four spot.
However, the Dutchman has noted that Eddie Howe’s side have one game a week through February and have an eight-day gap from their Premier League encounter with Liverpool at St James’ Park to the final – a rematch of the 1999 FA Cup final – while United will have less than three full days from their Europa League last-32 decider with Barcelona.
“It is obvious Newcastle have an advantage but it is about attitude and mentality,” he said. “I have handled it before, playing a cup game after we play in Europe, when I was with Ajax, so I know how to deal with it.”