With help from a likely source in the form of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Jose Mourinho has become the only Manchester United manager to win a trophy in his first season in charge. It will be the first of many more to come.
Ibrahimovic scored the deciding goal in a thrilling 3-2 encounter which saw Southampton come back from a 2-0 deficit to level up the match. Two more goals from new signing Manolo Gabbiadini either side of half time were not enough to stop the Saints sinking in a gut-wrenching Wembley finale.
It seems surprising that some of the past giants of the Old Trafford hot seat haven’t managed such a feat in their first season, and it serves only to reinforce Mourinho as a true master of the modern game. It’s true testament to the speed with which he improves teams, although also helps to explain the issue of the longevity of success for one club which continues to plague him.
Simmer down is the cry though. It’s the EFL cup – Walt Disney’s tin-pot Mickey Mouse cup. Well, sort of. If not a warning shot, then it’s a sign of things to come. Even at 2-2, you could see the headlines – ‘The old United are back’, ‘They scored late having been outplayed for large swathes of the match’ and so on and so forth. If you speak to most fans of United, you’ll hear there’s a newfound sense of optimism and excitement around Old Trafford.
Martin Tyler asked as Ibrahimovic scored the winner to make it 3-2, ‘Where would this Manchester United team be without him this season?’ Well, that’s a bit like saying, ‘Where would this Ford Mustang be without the engine? Well, of course it would be f*cked, but then, we’d probably just buy another one’. Having said that, the signing of 35-year-old Ibrahimovic aligns with the commonly-held theory of short-termism so often levelled at Mourinho.
In his second stint at Stamford Bridge, Mourinho had little success in his first season (aside from orchestrating Steven Gerrard’s banana skin slip up) yet cruised to the title in his second. This season, Conte’s Chelsea have managed a similar feat of dominance, currently sitting 10 points above second place Tottenham. Following Mourinho’s transitional period, United may well just be the team to beat next season.
Chris Henderson – follow me on Twitter here