Southampton Miss Out On League Cup

Southampton were unable to claim their second major trophy in their history as they fell to a late 3-2 defeat to Manchester United. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Jesse Lingard put Jose Mourinho’s side two goals up, but a Manolo Gabbiadini brace pulled the Saints level. But it was a late Ibrahimovic header that saw the first silverware of the season head to Manchester.

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Jose Mourinho has now won all four of his League Cup finals (2005, 2007, 2015, and 2017). Image: BBC Sport

It was a frustrating start for Saints, who started the game brightly. Southampton felt aggrieved when Gabbiadini turned in a Cedric Soares cross, only for the goal to be ruled out by the assistant. Replays showed that the Italian was clearly onside, whilst Ryan Bertrand, who was standing yards behind the action, was actually offside.

After that decision it was only a matter of time before United opened the deadlock. It came in the form of an Ibrahimovic free kick. The Swede swept the ball in to the bottom corner from 25 yards to give United an undeserved lead. Jesse Lingard doubled United’s lead seven minutes before half time. Marcus Rojo strode forward, receiving the ball from out wide, before squaring the ball to Lingard, who had acres of space to curl the ball in to the far corner.

The game was looking lost for Saints, but there was a glimmer of hope just before half time. James Ward-Prowse whipped a low ball in to the six yard box just before half time, where Gabbiadini lost his man to guide the ball past David De Gea.

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Manolo Gabbiadini has now hit five (should have been SIX!) goals in his three games for Southampton. Image: Metro

And Saints fans only had to wait three minutes after the break for them to draw level. United thought that they had cleared a corner, but Steven Davis headed the ball back in to the box. Gabbiadini held off Chris Smalling as he turned and swept the ball home with his left foot.

A period of sustained Saints pressure followed. De Gea punched away a fierce Redmond volley, and Oriel Romeu hit the post with a header from a corner. In a rare United attack, an Anthony Martial cross found its way to the far post, where Jesse Lingard blazed over the bar despite being under no pressure. Jack Stephens almost gave Saints the lead with five minutes to go, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic headed clear his goal-bound header.

And it was Ibrahimovic who was the hero for Mourinho’s side, as he found the space between the Saints’ centre backs to nod home from close range to gift United the trophy in the 87th minute.It was a heartbreaking moment for Saints, who dominated large spells of the final and had the majority of the chances.

Despite not lifting the trophy, it was a final to remember for the Southampton fans. It was the first time that Saints had appeared in a major final since their 2003 FA Cup final appearance, and the fans were much more vocal than their Mancunian counterparts. Without the services of talisman Virgil Van Dijk and top goalscorer Charlie Austin, the players put in an incredible shift, but were ultimately punished by the difference in quality that United’s bank balance allows.

Southampton Player Ratings:

Forster – 6: Would maybe be disappointed with the first goal, but stood no chance for the other two.

Cedric – 7: Looked dangerous on the overlap, should have had an assist in the first half.

Stephens – 7: United felt he could have been sent off, but was unlucky to give away a free kick. Showed experience beyond his years.

Yoshida – 7: Really stepped up to fill the gap left by Fonte’s departure and Van Dijk’s injury.

Bertrand – 7: Strong going forward and kept Juan Mata quiet all game.

Romeu – 7: Picked up an early booking but put in a very solid display. Hit the post at 2-2.

Davis – 7: Classic Steven Davis. Covered every blade of grass and provided the second assist for Gabbiadini.

Tadic – 8: Most of Saints’ attacks came through him, unlucky to be taken off so early.

Ward-Prowse – 7: Picked up an assist and was a constant threat from dead ball situations.

Redmond – 7: Looked dangerous going forward, but was ultimately unable to recapture his finishing from the semi-final first leg against Liverpool.

Gabbiadini – 9: Scored twice and had a goal wrongly ruled offside. Should be very disappointed to be subbed off at 2-2.

Subs:

Boufal (Tadic, 77) – 6: Lacking match fitness and it showed.

Long (Gabbiadini, 83): Brought on too late to make an impact.

Rodriguez (Davis, 90): Brought on too late to make an impact, but was good to see him on the pitch at Wembley after his injury problems.

Unused: Hassen, Sims, Caceres, Hojbjerg, McQueen.

Manchester United Player Ratings:

De Gea 8; Valencia 6, Bailly 6, Smalling 5, Rojo 6; Herrera 7, Pogba 6; Lingard 7 (Rashford, 77, 6), Mata 6 (Carrick, 45, 8), Martial 6 (Fellaini, 90); Ibrahimovic 10.

Unused: Romero, Blind, Young, Rooney.

Premier League 2016/17 Preview – Southampton

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Charlie Austin scored just minutes in to his Southampton debut, but has struggled with injuries since. Image: Saintsfc.co.uk

If it wasn’t for Leicester’s heroics last season, Southampton finishing sixth – just three points from the top four – would have been the story of the season. But as we have come to expect, the top performers from that side have left the club over the summer. Sadio Mane and Victor Wanyama have joined Liverpool and Tottenham respectively, whilst Graziano Pelle has moved to Shandong Luneng. Nathan Redmond and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg to replace Mane and Wanyama, whilst Alex McCarthy and Jeremy Pied have come in as squad players. New manager Claude Puel led Nice to fourth in Ligue 1 last season, and will look to play his 4-4-2 diamond system. Replacing the goals of Mane and Pelle will be key for Southampton, and the Saints look light up front. Charlie Austin was signed in January with a view to replace Pelle, and he will hope that having a full pre-season will get him back to full fitness. The same can be said about Jay Rodriguez, who suffered another injury hit season last time out. Nathan Redmond has also been utilised as a striker in pre-season, scoring a couple of goals. Keeping hold of their defensive partnership of Virgil van Dijk and European champion Jose Fonte will be vital if Saints are going to challenge for Europe again. The squad is relatively thin, so coping with the added Europa League games could test Puel’s men. A top half finish, a decent showing in Europe and a run in the FA Cup would be seen as a successful year on the South coast.

Key Man: Charlie Austin. The 27 year old announced himself in style as he scored the winner at Old Trafford on his debut, but struggled with injury in his first six months at the club. Having a full pre-season to regain his fitness and half a season to settle in to the club could see Austin recreate his form for QPR, where he scored 18 goals in his solo Premier League season. Austin has the physicality to play the role of Graziano Pelle, but his finishing is definitely an upgrade on the Italian. Whether or not he fits in to Puel’s system though could be a sticking point for the striker.

One to Watch: Jake Hesketh. After making his debut in December 2014, Hesketh was a victim of Ronald Koeman’s reluctance to play young players. The attacking midfielder was linked to Manchester United in January after his impressive performances for the Under 21s. At 20 years old, Hesketh featured for the first team in pre-season playing in behind the front two, and may find that Claude Puel’s system and preference for developing young players could see him feature in the coming season.

Last Season: 6th

Prediction: 7th