Man UtdManchester United3SouthamptonSouthampton2

Manchester United 3-2 Southampton

By Phil McNultyChief football writer at Wembley
Manchester United have won the League Cup for a fifth time
Manchester United have won the League Cup for a fifth time

Zlatan Ibrahimovic's late winner secured the EFL Cup and gave Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho his first success since his summer appointment, as brave Southampton were beaten at Wembley.

Southampton were the better side for most of this final but were left heartbroken by a controversial offside decision - and the inspiration provided by the 35-year-old Swede as he took his tally to 26 goals this season.

Saints' striker Manolo Gabbiadini saw a goal contentiously ruled out before United took an undeserved two-goal lead through Ibrahimovic's superb 19th minute free-kick and Jesse Lingard's measured finish seven minutes before the interval.

Southampton, as their performance merited, were on terms with two predatory strikes from Gabbiadini either side of half-time.

Oriel Romeu hit the woodwork before Ibrahimovic stole in on Ander Herrera's cross three minutes from time to give United a victory that looked beyond them for long spells.

Mourinho back in winners' enclosure

Mourinho was a subdued figure throughout this final - perhaps unable to disguise his discontent at what was a wretched performance by United for the most part at Wembley.

Inside, however, he will be ecstatic at holding silverware aloft once more, making himself a success with United in his first season at Old Trafford and performing the same trick he used at Chelsea to ease any pressure on himself and reassure supporters they have a winner at the helm.

Mourinho made it his business to target this trophy in his first season at Chelsea, beating Liverpool in the 2005 final, and it was his first success in his second spell at Stamford Bridge as Spurs were beaten here at Wembley in the 2015 final.

He is now level with Sir Alex Ferguson and Brian Clough as the most successful manager in the League Cup after his fourth triumph and takes another step on the road to rehabilitation after his sacking at Chelsea last season.

He had a warm, sympathetic exchange with his Southampton counterpart Claude Puel at the final whistle, the realist Mourinho probably realising United were outplayed for large portions of a highly entertaining final.

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho speaks to Southampton boss Claude Puel at the end of the EFL Cup final
Jose Mourinho is the first manager in Manchester United's history to win a major trophy in his first season

It will not mention that in the record books, though.

Mourinho is back among the silverware as this serial winner puts his name on United's honours board.

Zlatan the talisman

Ibrahimovic was Manchester United's man with the Midas touch, dragging them from a mire of mediocrity with his 25th and 26th goals of the season, as he secured his first success in England.

He is the leader of this developing United side, no argument brooked as team-mates stood back to let him send a 19th-minute free-kick past Southampton keeper Fraser Forster from 25 yards - although the effort was within reach of the giant stopper.

And in the closing moments, when Wembley looked for a match-winner to decide a thrilling final and prevent extra time, it was Ibrahimovic who found space among tiring Southampton defenders to power Ander Herrera's cross past Forster from six yards.

It was a goal that cements his cult status among United fans and confirms Mourinho's masterstroke in luring him to Old Trafford in one of the greatest free transfers the Premier League has seen.

United looked jaded as they were in Europa League action in Saint-Etienne on Thursday, while Saints had a two-week break - Zlatan helped refresh tired legs.

Can Ibrahimovic inspire cup treble?

Lady luck deserts superb Saints

Southampton's players dropped to their knees in desolation at the final whistle - and who could blame them after a superb performance left them with nothing but heartbreak?

They will complain long and hard about the decision to rule out Gabbiadini's first-half effort - a poacher's strike ruled out for offside against Ryan Bertrand, who was way out of the action at the far post while the Italian was clearly onside.

They shrugged off that disappointment to restore parity either side of half-time through the predatory Gabbiadini but had no luck whatsoever, Romeu's header bouncing back off the post with David de Gea well beaten.

Manolo Gabbiadini has scored five times in three appearances for Southampton since joining the club
Manolo Gabbiadini has scored five times in three appearances for Southampton since joining from Napoli

De Gea saved well from James Ward-Prowse and Dusan Tadic and United had several near-misses before snatching victory right at the death.

Southampton can be proud of one of the finest performances in defeat the modern Wembley has seen - but that will be no consolation to Puel's devastated players.

Man of the Match - Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Manchester United)

Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates Manchester United's victory over Southampton in the EFL Cup final
Zlatan Ibrahimovic provided the attacking threat which proved wrong those who felt his days as a big-game player were over. Lovely goal from a free-kick to open the scoring and a great header to clinch the trophy.

'This is what I came for' - reaction

Manchester United match-winner Zlatan Ibrahimovic: "This is a team effort. This is what I came for - to win, and I am winning. The more I win the more satisfied I get.

"You appreciate it more the older you get. Wherever I have gone I have won. I think this is trophy number 32 for me. This is what I predicted. My friend, I keep doing it. I'm enjoying it in England."

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho: "Honestly, Ibrahimovic won the game for us because he was outstanding. I can see a couple of performances - Pogba similar level - but he was outstanding.

"In a match where the opponent was better than us for long periods - they deserved to go to extra time - he made the difference and he gave us the cup.

"I'm a bit emotional yes. It's not easy to win titles and so many times. It's not easy to cope with the pressure I put myself under.

"It was a game I was feeling the difficulty. I want to pay homage to Southampton and what they deserve. We have the cup in our hands and probably should be in extra time."

Southampton manager Claude Puel: "We came back with quality. Perhaps we deserve better. It's football and congratulations to Manchester United and their players.

"Manolo Gabbiadini scored three good goals [including the disallowed goal]. There's a lot of disappointment of course. We had a fantastic game without the reward. I hope we can continue on this level."

Why Lingard loves Wembley - the stats

  • Jesse Lingard has scored in each of his past three appearances at Wembley for Manchester United (2016 FA Cup Final, Community Shield and League Cup final this season).
  • Jose Mourinho has won all four of the League Cup finals he has contested (2005, 2007, 2015 and 2017).
  • Zlatan Ibrahimovic has now scored six goals in his past five domestic cup finals (four goals in four games with PSG).
  • These were Ibrahimovic's 25th and 26th goals of the season in all competitions, the most of any Premier League player this season.
  • Ibrahimovic's opening goal was the first Southampton have conceded in the League Cup this season, going 468 minutes without shipping a goal in the competition.
  • Manolo Gabbiadini is the fourth Italian to score in the League Cup final (Fabrizio Ravanelli, Roberto di Matteo and Fabio Borini the others).
  • Gabbiadini is the second player to score twice in a League Cup final against Manchester United after Dean Saunders.
  • Manchester United have won each of their past six games at Wembley.
  • Only Liverpool (8) have won the League Cup more times than Manchester United (5).

What's next?

It's back to Old Trafford for Manchester United's cup winners, with Bournemouth the Premier League visitors on Saturday (12:30 GMT).

On the same day, Southampton turn their attention back to the league when they face Watford at Vicarage Road (15:00 GMT).


Man Utd

Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 1de Gea
  • 25A Valencia
  • 3Bailly
  • 12Smalling
  • 5Rojo
  • 21HerreraBooked at 24mins
  • 6Pogba
  • 8MataSubstituted forCarrickat 45'minutes
  • 14LingardBooked at 41minsSubstituted forRashfordat 77'minutes
  • 11MartialSubstituted forFellainiat 90'minutes
  • 9Ibrahimovic


  • 10Rooney
  • 16Carrick
  • 17Blind
  • 18Young
  • 19Rashford
  • 20Romero
  • 27Fellaini


Formation 4-4-1-1

  • 1Forster
  • 2Cédric Soares
  • 24StephensBooked at 40mins
  • 3Yoshida
  • 21Bertrand
  • 16Ward-Prowse
  • 14RomeuBooked at 18mins
  • 8DavisSubstituted forRodriguezat 90'minutes
  • 22RedmondBooked at 56mins
  • 11TadicSubstituted forBoufalat 77'minutes
  • 20GabbiadiniSubstituted forLongat 83'minutes


  • 7Long
  • 9Rodriguez
  • 12Cáceres
  • 19Boufal
  • 23Højbjerg
  • 38McQueen
  • 40Hassen
Andre Marriner

Match Stats

Home TeamMan UtdAway TeamSouthampton
Shots on Target

Live Text

  1. Post update

    Match ends, Manchester United 3, Southampton 2.

  2. Full Time

    Second Half ends, Manchester United 3, Southampton 2.

  3. Post update

    Foul by Oriol Romeu (Southampton).

  4. Post update

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

  5. Post update

    Attempt blocked. Ryan Bertrand (Southampton) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Shane Long with a headed pass.

  6. Post update

    Paul Pogba (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  7. Post update

    Foul by James Ward-Prowse (Southampton).

  8. Substitution

    Substitution, Southampton. Jay Rodriguez replaces Steven Davis.

  9. Substitution

    Substitution, Manchester United. Marouane Fellaini replaces Anthony Martial.

  10. Post update

    Foul by Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Manchester United).

  11. Post update

    Steven Davis (Southampton) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  12. Goal!

    Goal! Manchester United 3, Southampton 2. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Manchester United) header from very close range to the high centre of the goal. Assisted by Ander Herrera with a cross.

  13. Post update

    Corner, Southampton. Conceded by Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

  14. Post update

    Attempt blocked. Jack Stephens (Southampton) header from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by James Ward-Prowse with a cross.

  15. Post update

    Corner, Southampton. Conceded by Anthony Martial.

  16. Post update

    Attempt missed. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Manchester United) header from the centre of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Anthony Martial with a cross following a corner.

  17. Post update

    Corner, Manchester United. Conceded by Fraser Forster.

  18. Post update

    Attempt saved. Marcus Rashford (Manchester United) left footed shot from the left side of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

  19. Substitution

    Substitution, Southampton. Shane Long replaces Manolo Gabbiadini.

  20. Post update

    Corner, Southampton. Conceded by Michael Carrick.


Join the conversation

These comments are now closed.


Scores, Results & Fixtures

Sunday 26th February 2017

Top Stories

Elsewhere on the BBC