Well, as biased as we would all like to be about the EFL Cup final, to say anything other than the better team lost would be grossly unfair on United’s counterparts today. Southampton deserves massive credit and huge condolences for their part in a cracking game of football. But Mourinho makes history, and United are now either the joint or most successful club in England (I’m seeing different numbers everywhere). Here is what we learned on Cup final day.
No Carrick, no joy
I have said it before this season, but without Michael Carrick in the middle of the park alongside Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba, Manchester United are far too easy to play against. Neither Pogba nor Herrera have the discipline to play deep in the middle, and time and again Southampton took advantage of this weakness. The first (legitimate) goal came from Dusan Tadic picking the ball up in the hole left by Pogba’s lack of awareness for the position. The second half showed exactly what is needed alongside those two, an anchor who won’t move from there while Herrera plows on with his dynamism and Pogba runs the show. When he retires, a headache may be caused.
Rojo no no
What has happened to Luke Shaw? Where has he gone? He travelled to London but didn’t even get a look in. And then United are stuck with Marcos Rojo at Left Back, and that doesn’t strike a lot of confidence in me when I look at the team sheet. He is a walking mistake, he nearly gifted Southampton a penalty in the build-up to the offside goal and allowed one or two more opportunities as the game went on just for good measure. Now it would be unfair to say he hasn’t improved in places this season, and at centre-half, he has looked at the very least capable, but a Left Back he ain’t. Come on, Luke. Shape up sharpish.
It quickly became more about the occasion than the performance for me. United saw nowhere near enough of the ball to be properly analysed and Southampton were rampant throughout the game. But the World Class element of JoseMourinho’s squad won the day in the end. People scoffed and chortled when Zlatan Ibrahimovic signed on a free in the summer, citing his age and the ease of the leagues he has played in as reasons he wouldn’t succeed. 7 months later and he has 26 goals and a trophy to show for his apparent swansong. Antonio Valencia was again sturdy, and Eric Bailly needs to be found following the AFCON. On another day it could have all ended so differently, and the bitter Berties and Dippers will all chirp on relentlessly about the goal that was ruled out, but we can happily ignore them. The EFL Cup is not the most prestigious, it is not the one teams set out to win in August when the season starts, but it is a major honour and United now hold 3 of the 4 domestic trophies available to them. Crisis? What crisis?