London - Zlatan Ibrahimovic sealed the first major silverware of Jose
Mourinho's Manchester United reign and broke Southampton's hearts as the
Swedish star's late goal clinched a dramatic 3-2 victory in Sunday's
League Cup final.
As it happened: Man United 3-2 Southampton
Ibrahimovic was one of Mourinho's marquee
signings in the close-season and he repaid his manager's faith with a
typically dominant display on the big occasion at Wembley.
The 35-year-old opened the scoring with a blistering free-kick before Jesse Lingard doubled United's lead.
Manolo Gabbiadini sparked a thrilling Southampton fightback, scoring just before half-time and again early in the second half.
Ibrahimovic had the last word as his 87th minute header - his 26th
goal of the campaign - ensured Mourinho joined United legend Alex
Ferguson and Nottingham Forest great Brian Clough as the only managers
to win the League Cup four times.
Mourinho is the first United
manager to win a top prize in his maiden season at Old Trafford, a feat
not even Ferguson or Matt Busby achieved.
It was also the 54-year-old's 19th major trophy of his glittering career.
United trailing well behind Premier League leaders Chelsea, Mourinho
needed this success to guarantee players, fans and the club's hierarchy
remain in his corner.
But the serial winner will hope the victory
acts as a catalyst to claim bigger prizes in the near future, just as it
did when the League Cup was the first silverware of his maiden spell
It is 41 years since Southampton shocked United in
the FA Cup final to lift the only major trophy in the club's history and
Claude Puel's team deserve credit for an enterprising display that took
them agonisingly close to another huge upset.
In the absence of
injured playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan and with Wayne Rooney again on the
bench, the stage was set for Ibrahimovic to cement his status as
United's talisman and he wasted little time stamping his authority on
his first showpiece occasion in England.
Demanding the ball right
from the start, Ibrahimovic's astute pass set up France midfielder Paul
Pogba for a fierce long-range effort that stung the palms of Saints
goalkeeper Fraser Forster.
responded with a dangerous raid that should have brought the opening
goal in the 11th minute when Cedric Soares crossed low into the six yard
box and Gabbiadini side-footed past David de Gea., only to see his
celebrations curtailed by a dubious offside decision.
by that lucky escape, United swept forward and in the 19th minute Oriol
Romeu made a costly error when he try to halt another attack with a
crude lunge on Ander Herrera.
Romeu was booked but there was worse
punishment to come from the free-kick as Ibrahimovic stepped up to
smash his dipping shot over the Southampton wall.
Despite their lead, United still looked alarmingly casual and De Gea was forced to save from James Ward-Prowse and Dusan Tadic.
But Southampton were even more negligent at the back and Mourinho's men made them pay again in the 38th minute.
Rojo was given room to pick out Lingard inside the penalty area and the
United forward couldn't believe this luck as the statuesque Saints'
defence allowed him to guide a low finish past Forster.
Yet on the
stroke of half-time Southampton were back in it as United were caught
napping by Ward-Prowse's cross and Gabbiadini applied the finishing
touch with a cool close-range effort.
With the strangely diffident
Pogba offering little protection to United's defence, Southampton
exposed United's defensive flaws again to draw level in the 48th minute
a corner was directed back into the United area, Pogba missed a header
and Gabbiadini reacted quicker than Chris Smalling to whip his shot past
De Gea for his fifth goal in just three appearances since a January
move from Napoli.
Romeu almost won it when he headed against a post from Ward-Prowse's corner.
despite a far from convincing display from United, it was Ibrahimovic
who delivered the knockout blow with extra-time looming.
started and finished a United counter, ghosting into the six-yard box to
meet Herrera's cross with a bullet header that added more lustre to
both United and Mourinho's trophy cabinets.