Friday 27 January 2017

EFL Cup final: Saints and Devils to lock horns at Wembley

On his 54th birthday, Jose rekindled his League Cup love affair as he steered United to the first major final of his Old Trafford tenure after six months in charge. 

Mourinho has never lost in this competition - winning it in each of his three full Chelsea seasons - and will have the chance to move level with both SAF and Brian Clough on four in next month's showpiece.

The EFL Cup may not be top of this club's priorities but a trophy is a trophy and a major final will surely only fuel confidence and belief for the bigger obstacles that lie ahead.

However, with progress, comes problems. 

Mourinho will now see the strength in depth of his squad tested to the full with the final scheduled for the same day of the away derby - which will now be rescheduled - and four days after the Europa League second leg tie in St Etienne. 

Victory at Wembley would bring United a fifth League Cup success, but for our opponents Southampton it represents a first ever appearance in this competition's showpiece.

They won't need to look far for inspiration and a good omen, however. 

The Saints won the only major trophy in their their history in the FA Cup final when, as a Second Division side, Bobby Stokes scored the only goal to stun Tommy Doherty's United at Wembley.

They came close to repeating that feat in 2003 under Gordon Strachan but lost out to Arsenal through a solitary Robert Pires goal.

Even just by making the final, Southampton have made a little piece of history.

Claude Puel's men became the first side ever to reach a League Cup final without conceding a single goal on the way. 
Not only that, but they've faced Premier League opposition in every round which makes that statistic even more impressive.

Saints despatched Crystal Palace and Sunderland in the early stages before their 2-0 win at Arsenal paved the way for their deserved 2-0 aggregate win over faltering Liverpool in the last four.

Jurgen Klopp's side seemed odds on favourites to join United in the final when the semi-final draw was made but Southampton made a mockery of that with an impressive victory in each leg. 

Jose has the chance to etch his name in folklore too; no United manager has ever won silverware in his first season in charge (the Community Shield isn't a proper trophy)...

Legendary knights of the realm Sir Matt Alex endured three difficult seasons before they finally tasted success at Old Trafford and LVG won the FA Cup at the end of his second (and final) campaign in charge.

So all eyes on Wembley on 26th February, when United take on the Saints with silverware up for grabs and history on the line...

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