Are Manchester United back? Not yet, but they're certainly on their way

Casemiro joined Man Utd shortly after they lost 4-0 to Brentford in August
Casemiro joined Man Utd shortly after they lost 4-0 to Brentford in August / Marc Atkins/GettyImages

From Wembley Stadium - Manchester United lifted their first trophy in nearly six years on Sunday afternoon, comfortably beating Newcastle in the Carabao Cup final at Wembley.

The seasons since 2017 have been out of character for one of the world's most successful football clubs. There's been defeats in semi-finals, near misses in finals and penalty shootout defeats, but a common theme during their barren spell has been that of fragility - not strong enough in the most important moments to deal with the occasion.

But it's starting to look like this is the season where that's all to change. And it's down to Erik ten Hag and the succession of decisions he has made since becoming the club's permanent manager.

Ten Hag has transformed this team, supercharged their mentality and demanded their highest standards - doing so with the firm help of a number of new signings who have helped him not only get his ideas across, but also eliminated that fragility that was holding them back.

He has continuously talked about nothing being achieved until a trophy is won, and there was one player in his team on Sunday who knows better than almost any footballer in the world the art of getting the job done.

Casemiro's first half header broke the deadlock, and earned United an advantage they perhaps hadn't warranted up until that point. His header to the far post came after Newcastle perhaps shaded proceedings during the opening half an hour, but after the goal was confirmed his side never looked back.

Marcus Rashford forced an own goal shortly after to seal the win, and though Newcastle huffed and puffed throughout the remainder of the game, the result was never in doubt.

They did it without fuss, and without being at their pulsating best. But in just a matter of months United have gone from a team with little belief to a team who can win trophies and do the important thing of getting the job done; akin to a Casemiro quote on how to get through finals.

"Finals are not for playing, finals are for winning, however you can," he said during his Real Madrid days.

Here, Casemiro earned his 21st career trophy, and won the 16th of 18 career finals, scoring a goal and putting in a man of the match performance. But it's the example he sets, the standards he demands on the pitch, like his manager does from the sidelines, that has dragged a squad of players who didn't know how to win into an entirely new realm for the months and years ahead.

In 2006, a League Cup win was the launch pad for a period of success for a new iteration of Sir Alex Ferguson's United. This win at Wembley draws comparisons to then, and is the first rubber stamp on Ten Hag's incredibly successful first season at Old Trafford. They've taken a number of important wins over rivals in the league and dumped Barcelona out of Europe, but trophies are the measuring stick at United, and Ten Hag now has his first one.

Time will tell if United are to continue their revival, and time will tell if United are actually 'back' - like many have been suggesting in recent weeks.

They perhaps won't make it there until they win the big trophies, the Premier League being the top priority, but after today there's no reason not to think Erik ten Hag - and Casemiro among others - can't help them get there.