The first domestic final of the season is upon us as Wembley hosts Manchester United vs Southampton. This is a great opportunity for Southampton to grab a piece of silverware which would be their first major trophy since 1976. For Jose Mourinho’s United team, winning a trophy in consecutive seasons will be a sign of marked improvement from the past few years with the chance of yet more silverware this season to come.

This will be United’s ninth League Cup final appearance. With a sketchy League Cup final record they’ve won four and lost four, but importantly 3 of those victories have been in their past 3 finals, their last victory coming against Aston Villa in 2010. Only Liverpool have appeared in more League Cup finals than United with 12.

Jose Mourinho is a serial winner in the League Cup. He’s won all 3 of his League Cup Final appearances. Only Brian Clough and Sir Alex Ferguson have won the League Cup more times. He will enter this final no different. He played down the importance of winning this trophy to himself personally leading up to the final, but in reality he knows an early trophy sets out his stall well for what he’s trying to achieve with United. From United’s perspective of course it never hurts a team to win some silverware early on in the season which could help give a boost leading into the final third of the season.

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Man United met 3 Premier League sides in their run to the final including Man City and West Ham. Over the 4 games they scored 11 goals and conceded 4. Man United have been in great form of late and it’s hard to see them not winning the final however good a side Southampton are. United have only lost once in the last 25 games in all competitions, a tremendous run considering how poor they had been over the past 3 years.

They are playing with flair, are good defensively and if not for some poor finishing in a handful of games that they drew, could be right in the title hunt. They have the makings of a team who could really pose a threat next season, and Jose Mourinho will expect no less.

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It will be interesting to see what part, if any, Wayne Rooney plays in the final given recent speculation linking him with a move away from Old Trafford now he has done it all for the Red Devils. He has since come out and announced he is staying at United. Whilst I’m not sure that will be in the long term, to finish his United career with a trophy would be quite fitting.

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David De Gea is expected to return between the sticks for United who has sat out of the last 3 games with Sergio Romero filling in very well. Carrick is also expected to be fit after picking up a knock mid-week. A big miss for Man United will be attacking midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan who will miss out due to a hamstring injury picked up during Wednesday’s 1-0 Europa League win at Saint-Etienne.

It’s likely Anthony Martial will get the nod ahead of Marcus Rashford his pace will be a key asset to unlocking Southampton’s defence which can be very stubborn and well drilled as their run in the League Cup has shown.

For Southampton, a win in this final would make for a fantastic day in the history of the club, the first major trophy in over 40 years.

Manager Claude Puel said: “Of course it is a great moment for the fans and I hope we can give them pleasure and joy to see this game.” “I know the last time Southampton won a cup was in 1976 against Manchester United. It’s a long time and it will be fantastic to take a good result.

And Southampton will give this their all, a competition they have taken seriously in a tricky run to the final playing Premier League opposition at every stage. Along their path to the final, they faced both Arsenal and Liverpool yet still managed to get to the final without conceding a single goal.

Martin Caceres could make his debut for Southampton in the EFL Cup final. The 29-year-old former Barcelona and Juventus defender could make an impact especially when you consider Virgil van Dijk is a long term absentee.

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Southampton however, whilst performing fantastically in the League Cup have not been in particular good form in the league having only won 2 of their last 8 matches, losing the other 6. Over that period they have conceded 15 goals, nearly averaging 2 goals conceded per game. This seems a far cry from their immaculate League Cup displays.

And with that, I can only see one winner on Sunday afternoon, of course in a one off game anything can happen, but Man United have been too strong, too professional and are on the upward trajectory. They work to the very last minute and don’t care if they win by 3 or 4 goals, or whether they win dirty, usually spearheaded by Marouane Fellaini. I think the squad United have, and the options from the bench will give Mourinho his first trophy in his first season as Man United manager, meaning United would have won 2 trophies in 2 seasons and a likely assault on the final third of the season could follow.

 

By Michael Thatcher

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