Home 5 News 5 Manchester United 3-2 Southampton: 5 things we learned as Ibrahimovic double wins Mourinho first United trophy

Manchester United 3-2 Southampton: 5 things we learned as Ibrahimovic double wins Mourinho first United trophy

Manchester United won the first trophy of the Jose Mourinho era after Zlatan Ibrahimovic headed home a late winner.

Ibrahimovic had opened the scoring with a fine free-kick and Jesse Lingard’s goal gave the impression that United might run away with things in the first half.

But Manolo Gabbiadini’s goal on the brink of half-time gave the Saints a boost after a first half where they had deserved to be level – at the very least – after an incorrectly disallowed goal.

Southampton continued to fight and got their merited equaliser through the Italian in the second half, threatening to take the game to extra time. 

But it was a gut-punch from Ibrahimovic, powering a header home with four minutes to go, that settled this exhilarating final at Wembley

But what did we learn?

1. Claude Puel puts his faith in Jack Stephens

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Jack Stephens wastasked with shackling Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the EFL Cup final (Getty)

With Virgil van Dijk out injured, Claude Puel had a choice.

He could go with veteran free agent signing Martin Caceres, who is yet to start a game for the club, or he could opt for Jack Stephens, a product of Southampton’s famous academy.

Puel went with Stephens and gave the young man a Wembley date to remember. Up against Zlatan Ibrahimovic, however, there was always the fear that it could be a day to forget. 

For a player of just 23 years of age he played with remarkable composure on the big stage. But he was helplessly watching on when Zlatan nodded home that winner, having drifted between two defenders.

2. Fraser Forster’s poor form continues

Once labelled ‘the Great Wall’ by a Catalan newspaper for his outstanding display against Barcelona in the Champions League, Forster’s form since returning from injury has been more like a kicked-down fence. 

Manchester United should not have gone ahead through Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s free-kick for two reasons; firstly they had a completely legal goal from Manolo Gabbiadini ruled out at the other end and, secondly, Forster should have saved it.

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Zlatan celebrates after curling a free-kick past Forster

Yes, his wall let him down but Forster could not even get a hand to a ball that crossed the line a yard inside the far post. Either his positioning wasn’t good enough or, more commonly with Forster, his lack of explosion in the lower half of his body meant he didn’t travel across goal with enough speed. 

If injury has shorn him of that little extra spring he had, it translates to inches on a save like that. When put on the biggest stage, that can cost your team goals and trophies. 

3. Manolo Gabbiadini gets unlucky

It went somewhat under the radar but Southampton brought in a potential superstar late in the January window and Manolo Gabbiadini continued his good start to life in England with a Wembley goal. And it should have been two.

While his toe-poke under David De Gea kept Southampton in the game by halving the deficit on the brink of half-time, he should, in fact, have put his side 1-0 up when a goal was ruled out incorrectly for offside. 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic went down the other end and scored for Man United, putting them in front legally, but Manolo can feel hard done by.

Even though he leaves Wembley without a trophy, Gabbiadini is gathering admirers on British soil.

4. Jose reaches for Carrick and control

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Manchester United missed the playmaking dynamism of Henrikh Mkhitaryan a bit, but not as much as they had needed the calm control of Michael Carrick.

Nathan Redmond picked up the ball in an unmistakably ‘Carrick’ zone before driving at the defence to bring Southampton back into the game and Mourinho, never shy to make a statement, hauled off Juan Mata at the break to install Carrick at the base of his midfield and to help bring Paul Pogba – to this point a spectator – back into the game.

Their play was less exciting in the second half, less energetic. But they also took the sting out of Southampton and ground out a result. 

5. Jose Mourinho – cup king!

Make that 11 trophies from 13 cup finals for Jose Mourinho, with only a Copa del Rey defeat and a Taca da Portugal loss on his record. 

It was not a vintage performance by any means and Southampton actually caused United’s defence more problems than any team had in recent weeks during their impressive run.

But, as is the way with Jose’s teams, they nicked a result and, in finals, that has a handy knack of securing trophies. 

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