Sunday evening sees the English Football League Cup final take center stage at the famous Wembley ground as Manchester United take on Southampton.
Jose Mourinho made a winning start to his United career with a victory in the Community shield against Leicester City on this same ground, but this time he will be gunning for his first major silverware since he took over affairs at Old Trafford. It has been a good few months for Manchester United as they have won five straight games including progressing not just in the FA cup but also in the Europa Cup where they have now been paired to face FC Rostov of Russia in the last 16. Manchester United will be playing in their 8th league cup finals come Sunday having been winners on four occasions. Talisman Henrikh Mhkitaryan will be missing having picked up a knock in the second leg Europa Cup tie against St. Etienne, whilst skipper Wayne Rooney is expected to play some role after recovering from injury.
For Southampton, the Saints have had a longer time to prepare for the finals as they have not kicked a ball in two weeks. Claude Puel has seen his first season take him to the finals of a tournament and that alone would be deemed as success on some levels as this was a feat even his more favored predecessor Ronald Koeman failed to achieve. In a season where the Saints lost some of their best legs in Sadio Mane and Captain Jose Fonte, they have again re-invented themselves and despite not playing the brand of attractive football they displayed in recent years, they have proven to be a team capable of competing and taking major scalps off the big teams without having to spend big; also considering they have only conceded one goal on route to the final whilst taking on Premier League teams through out. In their semi-final tie, the Saints expertly dispatched Liverpool in both legs and would take this confidence into the game on Sunday.
Both sides have met once in the league this season already with Manchester United winning by 2 goals to nil, this is however a totally different situation as there is a little bit more at stake here and the battle is on a neutral ground where the only advantage is in the qualities of the players.
The likes of Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Eric Bailey who are all expected to start and will be hunting for their first piece of silverware since joining the team, Ibrahimovic has been the man for the big occasions this season with an impressive 24 goals including 2 against Sunday’s opponents when both sides first met and will be leading the attack with the likes of Juan Mata and Anthony Martial likely to support him, for the Saints, Claude Puel will be counting on Manolo Gabbiadini to continue his fine scoring form since he joined, whilst the likes of Shane Long also poses a big threat, they will however be missing key defender and Captain Virgil Van Dijk who is out with a long term injury.
The last time United won the League Cup was in 2010 when a Wayne Rooney goal gave the team a 2-1 victory over Aston Villa, Jose has a history of not losing too many finals and whilst the fixtures are coming in thick and fast, his focus will be on settling the one right before him and hoping the result is a favorable one that will boost the team’s performance as they continue to seek for a top four finish in the league.
Referee Andre Mariner will be in charge of this one and whilst it is expected to be a difficult game, the odds favor Manchester United to win this as Jose seeks to become the first United manager to win a major trophy in his first season in charge of the Red devils.
Prediction: Manchester United 2 Southampton 0