Jose Mourinho’s Red Army will walk out under the iconic Wembley arch tomorrow at GMT 16:30, hoping to trump Claude Puel’s Southampton and take the EFL Cup home.
Both sides are sure to turn up for what is a first shot at silverware for both managers at their respective clubs, but before we make any predictions, let’s look at a few talking points.
ROAD TO THE FINAL
The fact that Southampton totally deserve to be in the Final, is pretty clear. They’ve had a stellar run so far, which in itself is a huge accolade to take home and if they come out and play like they have so far this Cup campaign, United are going to have to be switched on at all times to win comfortably.
Southampton have overturned Crystal Palace, Sunderland, Arsenal and Liverpool in the EFL Cup this season, as put against United’s Northampton, Manchester City, West Ham and Hull. The icing on Southampton’s cake is that they have gotten through to the Final, without conceding a single goal. They put two past Arsenal at the Emirates and then two past Liverpool over two legs, all without conceding. Some may argue that bigger clubs take the EFL Cup maybe a little lightly, but that shouldn’t take anything away from Southampton’s achievements.
Manchester United have had a pretty straightforward run to the Final, barring that defeat against Hull in the Semi Final second leg. United haven’t bulldozed opponents with goals all over the place, but they’ve simply turned up with greater quality and a domineering display in the middle of the park and scored enough goals to get a win. Expect the same in the Final.
XI vs XI
The headline players for Manchester United are Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Phil Jones. Rooney is back to fitness and Carrick has recovered from a calf complaint sustained while playing against Saint-Etienne in the club’s previous Europa League match. Mkhitaryan, though, will miss out on the Cup Final with a hamstring injury and Phil Jones is a big doubt too, due to a foot injury. Ander Herrera returns to the squad after serving his ban.
Southampton’s new signings Martin Caceres and Sofiane Boufal (club record signing) may not feature at all in the Cup Final. Boufal is still battling to return to fitness. Other big misses for The Saints will be Virgil van Dijk and Charlie Austin. Van Dijk in particular could prove to be a pivotal absentee as he’s been a rock in Southampton’s defence and United could exploit a defence built by Yoshida and Stephens.
Key players for United will no doubt be Pogba, Ibrahimovic, Carrick, Bailly, Valencia and the likes of Mata/Martial/Rashford out on the wings. Southampton have good full-backs, so our wingers and wingbacks will have to be tricky to get behind them, or cut inside and cause problems. Teeing up Ibrahimovic will be of essence, and Pogba absolutely cannot have one of those off days on the pitch. The last time we faced Southampton, both played exceedingly well, and they need to do that again.
Here’s my prediction of the United lineup, which is a mix of proper realistic predictions coupled with a little wishful thinking:
Herrera and Carrick will play extremely crucial roles, IMO. They have to be on their feet at all times and keep Hojbjerg and Ward-Prowse quiet so as to kill any moves Southampton try to make.
Rojo has to be up to the mark too, and maintain the good form he’s had this season. He CANNOT get flustered because he has to keep Gabbiadini in his pocket with the help of Bailly, and the rapid Nathan Redmond, with the help of Blind.
I expect a few surging runs from Southampton down their right side, which De Gea might have to acrobatically keep out, but it shouldn’t be too much for us to handle.
I expect Southampton to press well and push for openings at least early in the match, so our counter-attacks will be of great importance then. If we get them right, an early lead would set the tone for the match, get rid of any jitters and settle us down into a rhythm for a bit.
Manchester United are undoubtedly the big favourites to win this match and take the cup home, but its not going to be nearly as simple as that. Our big players are going to have to keep their heads in the game throughout and if we play our cards right and don’t do something stupid like bringing on Fellaini instead of Rashford, I don’t see why we won’t come out with a trophy in the bag.
I predict a 3-1 win to Manchester United.
What are your predictions? Any changes you’d make to this lineup? Let us know down in the comments! We’d love to hear from you!
Written by Jai Vyas, also known as The United Writer.
You can also find his work at The United Writer’s Blog!