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Jose Mourinho secured his first major trophy since his appointment as Manchester United manager, when his side registered a 3-2 win over Southampton in the EFL Cup final.
Under a vociferous atmosphere at the heart of the English capital, the encounter was set to be an enthralling final for both historical and pragmatic reasons.
The Saints were looking to deliver their first piece of silverware since winning the FA Cup 41 years ago against the same opponents: while United were keen on building momentum with a win, as they approach a clustered March period in which they contest in three competitive fronts.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic carved out an opening with a sublime free-kick in the nineteenth minute, but it was Mourinho’s unstirred reaction when Jesse Lingard doubled the lead twenty minutes later that projected how much the tie was far from settled.
Claude Puel’s side came to the fore and leveled the score, but the Saints were to be denied as Ibrahimovic’s towering header in the closing moments of normal time brought an end to the epic encounter.
Mourinho delivered the trophy after an honest day’s work, but it was the significance of the win that could help reconnoiter the way for his Manchester United career.
Just as he did at Chelsea and Inter Milan, winning the League Cup on his maiden season could possibly set the tone for a more prestigious trophy in his second season.
Breath of fresh air
Mourinho may not have been staring down the barrel of the gun, but he hasn’t been sleeping in a bed of roses either since taking up the job at Old Trafford.
Mud stuck at sixth in the Premier League for a whooping four months, the victory couldn’t have come at a better time as United prepare for trips to Rostov and Chelsea in a bid to secure the Europa League and FA Cup respectively.
With a group of players willing to swallow hook, line and sinker for him, no doubt the newly crowned EFL champions will restore Mourinho to the relic he has always been: a big match winner.
A bargaining chip
Jose is without question among the managerial cream of the crop.
The victory at Wembley became his eleventh successful career final that helped deliver his 19th major trophy.
Although he savored the moment, albeit for a short while, the 54-year old has less fond recollections of what followed his last trophy success at Chelsea.
Should he fail to deliver another trophy this season, securing a place in the Champions League will be seen as massive leap in the right direction- one that might just help him keep his job.
Written by Brian Humphrey
Follow Brian on Twitter @brihum
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