Five things we learned as Zlatan Ibrahimovic drags Man United to EFL Cup glory

Manchester United won their first trophy under Jose Mourinho as a late Zlatan Ibrahimovic header secured a 3-2 win over Southampton in the EFL Cup final.

Here, we highlight five things we learned from an enthralling encounter which also saw Southampton's Manolo Gabbiadini hit a brace, with an Ibrahimovic free-kick and a smart Jesse Lingard finish proving just enough for United.

ZLATAN STILL LOVES THE BIG STAGE

His impact on the final may have dropped as the game progressed and Saints took control of proceedings, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic still had his customary moment in the spotlight.

The 35-year-old dispatched a 30-yard free-kick to put the Red Devils in front and notch his fifth goal in his last five major cup finals.

And he added a sixth in stunning style, heading home the late winner to send the United fans behind the goal into raptures.

VIDEO REPLAYS ARE A MUST

Gabbiadini may have given Saints hope of a comeback as he tapped home before half-time to half the deficit - but he should have been celebrating opening the scoring as early as the 11th minute after converting Cedric Soares' cross.

However, he was incorrectly flagged offside, having been played on by Chris Smalling, with Ryan Bertrand offside but not involved in play.

The assistant referee Stuart Burt deemed it necessary to raise his flag and a simple 30-second interlude to check on a pitch-side monitor would have solved the problem and seen Claude Puel's men take an early, and deserved, lead.

GABBIADINI IS THE MAN

Despite being denied the opening goal, Gabbiadini showed just why Saints made such an outlay to bring him to the club in January as his brace had the south-coast side dreaming of a first major trophy since 1976.

The Italy international has now scored five goals in his first three appearances for the club and he certainly did not deserve to be on the losing side here.

ROONEY NO LONGER THE GO-TO GUY

Wayne Rooney spent much of the second-half of the final warming up on the touchline, sometimes down on his haunches and watching his team-mates look to grind out a result.

Previously the first name of the team-sheet, the England skipper saw Michael Carrick introduced for Juan Mata at the interval, with Mourinho turning to Marcus Rashford in his search for a winning goal - he was then stripped to enter the fray but after Ibrahimovic's late winner it was Marouane Fellaini who was thrown on to help repel any late pressure.

Rooney may have pledged his immediate allegiance to Old Trafford but missing out on game-time in a major cup final will not sit well with the 31-year-old.

THIS WAS NOT JUST A DAY OUT AT WEMBLEY FOR SOUTHAMPTON

Saints beat United in the 1976 FA Cup final to clinch their last major cup win and they came so close to upsetting the odds once more.

Claude Puel's side can go home with their heads held high after outplaying United for much of the contest - creating good chances and only falling to Ibrahimovic's late header.

Match report:

Zlatan Ibrahimovic's late header secured Manchester United the first major trophy of the Jose Mourinho era, breaking Southampton hearts at the end of a thrilling EFL Cup final.

Wembley bore witness to a superb encounter as expectant United faced a Saints side looking to win just the second major trophy in their history, the first having come 41 years ago when the sides met in the FA Cup final.

Manolo Gabbiadini's brace had Southampton dreaming as Ibrahimovic and Jesse Lingard strikes were cancelled out, only for Ibrahimovic to head home three minutes time to clinch a hard-fought 3-2 win.

Europa League and FA Cup glory remain further possibilities this term, but Mourinho will know his players need to up their game moving forwards.

After Gabbiadini had seen an opening goal inexplicably ruled out, under-performing United showed their ruthless edge as Ibrahimovic fired home a free-kick before Lingard scored on a third straight Wembley appearance.

But it appeared a gut-punch rather than a decisive killer-blow. Gabbiadini gave Southampton hope with a close-range goal in first-half stoppage time, before sending the success-starved fans wild with an outstanding leveller.

Oriol Romeu crashed a header off the post shortly after avoiding a second yellow card, but it was not to be for Southampton.

Ibrahimovic's 26th goal of the season saw Mourinho become the first United manager to win a major trophy in his debut season, and earned the Portuguese a fourth League Cup triumph - a joint record with Brian Clough and Sir Alex Ferguson.


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