Manchester United vs Southampton – Manchester United won their fifth League Cup on Sunday afternoon, beating Southampton 3-2 with goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Jesse Lingard at Wembley Stadium.
Manolo Gabbiadini struck twice for the Saints, who will feel it could have been them lifting the trophy after a pulsating 90 minutes of football.
For United, Wayne Rooney started on the bench with Ibrahimovic preferred as a starter. Anthony Martial and Lingard also came into the team playing its fourth game in 10 days. Jose Mourinho’s men faced a Southampton side unchanged from a 4-0 Premier League win against Sunderland two weeks ago.
The 32,000 traveling Saints fans were in good voice before kickoff, and their task for the day was to drive their side towards an upset. The flags and face paint were out in force to create a carnival atmosphere at Wembley and not even the weather could dampen spirits.
United, though, were desperate to silence the Saints support early on. Paul Pogba stung the gloves of Fraser Forster inside four minutes, but his long-range effort was straight at the Southampton goalkeeper.
Just six minutes later, Southampton had the ball in the back of the net. Ryan Bertrand’s cross evaded everybody before Cedric drove back into the box and squared for striker Manolo Gabbiadini who tapped in. However, the linesman ruled the goal offside. It was the wrong decision, as replays showed Nathan Redmond was the man offside, not Gabbiadini and the goal should have stood.
In a show of frustration, Oriol Romeu fouled Ander Herrera 25 yards from goal and Ibrahimovic stepped up to take the freekick.
He curled the ball past Forster, finding the bottom corner with a majestic strike to give United a 1-0 lead on 19 minutes. It was the first goal Southampton had conceded in this season’s competition.
Claude Puel’s side tried to hit back before halftime. James Ward-Prowse drilled a shot towards goal, but David De Gea was able to deal with it comfortably, punching away with 28 minutes gone.
Instead, with 38 minutes played, Lingard doubled United’s lead. He found space on the edge of the box and calmly slid the ball into the net.
Seconds before the halftime whistle, Southampton did pull one back. Gabbiadini, who was unfairly denied earlier on, tapped in from close range following a cross from Ward-Prowse on 46 minutes.
Nathan Redmond nearly leveled things early in the second half, catching a sweet volley inside the area that was pushed round the post by De Gea.
From the resulting corner, Gabbiadini stunned United again. The original corner was cleared, but the ball was floated back into the danger area, and the Italian was able to spin and poke the ball in on the turn. A goal either side of halftime meant it was all to play for with 40 minutes left.
United were stretched again on 62 minutes, as Steven Davis played in Ward-Prowse, who drilled a cross in. It was turned behind for a corner. Tadic swung the ball in again, and this time it was Romeu who came close, crashing a header off the post.
Southampton nearly completed their comeback on 85 minutes, coming close after Bertrand ran down the line, but his cross was not met by anyone. The two resulting corners were also cleared.
Instead, it was Ibrahimovic who broke Southampton hearts a minute later. On the counter attack Herrera drifted a ball into the six-yard box, and the striker rose highest to head home from close range.
Mourinho used substitutions to kill time as the clock ticked to 90, and Southampton couldn’t find a reply in the four added minutes.
41 years ago, the same two sides met in the 1976 FA Cup final. That day, Southampton beat United 1-0 in front of 99,000 people. This year, it was United who came out on top, courtesy of an Ibrahimovic masterclass.
With the win, United take home their fifth League Cup, whilst Southampton’s wait for another major trophy goes on.