Chris Smalling has heaped praise on Jose Mourinho and Zlatan Ibrahimovic following Manchester United’s 3-2 win over Southampton in the League Cup final, labelling the pair as “born winners”.
The 35-year-old’s powerful free-kick was quickly followed by a smart finish by Jesse Lingard to send Man United into the ascendancy, only for Claude Puel’s men to then restore the equilibrium with two goals from Marco Gabbiadini.
It felt as if the Saints, dominant for the entire afternoon, would forge a late winner, but Zlatan broke Southampton hearts with a dramatic late winner to hand United their first trophy of the Mourinho era and more than 30,000 reds lucky enough to be in Wembley went barmy. If you want to go yourself? United fans can get tickets to games here.
And Smalling, speaking after the game, was quick to hand praise to Mourinho and Zlatan for engineering a memorable win at Wembley.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) February 26, 2017
Mourinho was notably quick when it came to securing Zlatan’s signature over the summer. He was always destined for a move to Old Trafford, but the Portuguese wanted to get the deal done early; it was like he wanted to make a statement, to make it clear to the footballing world that he was crafting a team hallmarked by a serial winning mentality.
And against Southampton, with a first major trophy on the line, that spirit was evoked in emphatic fashion. United were poor all afternoon, producing perhaps their most muted performance of 2017, but they found a way to win. It wasn’t pretty, nor was it what they deserved, but this is a game of results, and very few people in the world of football can match the pair’s capacity to snatch victory at the sweetest of moments.