Red and white flags blossomed on Wembley Way as fans from south and north gathered in the capital on this spring afternoon, but by dusk onlyManchester United supporters could be heard in the fading light as they triumphantly celebrated their team’s 3-2 win over Southampton in the EFL Cup final.
The winning goal came just two minutes before the final whistle, after the Saints had fought from two goals down to level the tie.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Jesse Lingard gave the Red Devils an undeserved lead in the first-half, as the Saints dominated the game, but Manolo Gaddiadini pulled one back for the south coast club on the verge of half-time.
After the restart, Gabbiaini scored immediately to pull both sides level, but after a ding-dong second half, Ibrahimovic popped up to power a header past Fraser Forster, and claim Jose Mourinho’s first trophy as manager of the Old Trafford club.
Pogba had the earliest chance, with a long-range strike after Ibrahimovic’s lay off stinging Forster’s palms.
Despite that chance coming after an extended spell of possession from United, the Saints had the ball in the back of the net just after the 10-minute mark.
They made a couple of probing attacks, and won two corners in succession, before Cedric’s cross from the right was rolled home by Gabbiadini.
However, the Italian was adjudged to have been in an offside position, despite replays proving he was not, and the goal was incorrectly ruled out.
Southampton defended deep, but snapped into action near De Gea’s goal in incredible style; Rojo cleared a wondrous Tadic delivery with Ward-Prowse lurking.
Yet, within 10 minutes of seeing Gabbiadini’s strike ruled out, Southampton were a goal down.
Romeu scythed Herrera down 25 yards from goal, and Ibrahimovic stepped up and curled the resultant free-kick past Forster’s outstretched arm, although the keeper maybe should have done better.
Still Southampton came, frustrated by being behind when they should have been ahead; Ward-Prowse drawing a fine save from De Gea, and Tadic striking a shot straight at the keeper.
Moments later, Puel’s hope faded when Lingard rolled the ball past Forster into the far corner to score his third goal in as many games at Wembley, and hand United a remarkably undeserved 2-0 lead.
Surprisingly, the unjust scoreline was not getting to the Southampton stars, valiantly performing at the same level regardless of earlier incidents.
And with seconds to go before the half-time whistle, the deficit was reduced, Gabbiadini tapping home Ward-Prowse’s cross from close range.
The equalising goal came only three minutes after the restart.
De Gea punched a Redmond volley behind for a corner, and the set piece was not cleared by a combination of United defenders.
The ball bounced up, and Gabbiadini turned and fired into the back of the net, finishing in a style reminiscent of the classic goalscorers of days gone by.
The Red Devils were struggling to string even a few passes together, as Southampton looked more likely to grab the fifth goal.
In fact, Romeu steered a header against the post from Ward-Prowse’s superb corner kick, after Valencia cleared a cross from the far post which Bertrand surely would have converted without the Ecuadorian’s intervention.
Later chances were more evenly shared among both teams, Ibrahimovic’s free-kick hitting the wall and Lingard wildly firing over the crossbar from close range.
Rashford forced a save from Forster, struggling to move freely with an apparent knock, and United were lucky to escape when Bertrand’s cut back was missed by everyone in the area with the goal gaping.
And that miss came back to haunt the south coast club, as Ibrahimovic jumped highest to head Herrera’s cross home with only two minutes remaining, winning Jose Mourinho his first silverware as Manchester United manager.