There are rare footballers in the world, who flourish at the age of 35 in top-flight football, and especially when you play as a centre forward. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is only one who knows how to deliver at the age of 35, and become the central figure of his team. He ran the show at Wembley to pull EFL Cup final victory for Manchester United against Southampton.
There were times, when it looked certain Saints would own the Wembley once again, disappointing the title favourite Manchester United. But, Zlatan once again proved age is just a number for him, and he took the game away from Saints with his 86th minute glancing header. He was left unmarked in the box, and Ander Herrera perfectly chipped ball connect brilliantly to his head, and boom…game over.
No doubt, Southampton were better side, and their new hire Manolo Gabbiadini gave a headache to Manchester defense. Every time United goes ahead, he pulled one back for the Saints, and it was Southampton manager questionable decision to replace him with Shane Long in the end turns the game.
When a 35-year-old is still able to involve in the game, despite playing three games during which Southampton were on rest, why a 25-year-old should be replaced who is in form of his career. It wasn’t a wise decision from Claude Puel and it costs Southampton. Manchester United didn’t see any real danger in their defensive half when Shane Long arrived on the pitch. Only chance for Saints came with an attack from left, and a chance goes begging someone to slide in, but no one was there to take.
Manchester started brilliantly with Zlatan Ibrahimovic free kick in 19th minute, and Jesse Lingard doubled the lead for Red devils. But Southampton new signing from Napoli, Gabbiadini pulled a remarkable comeback for the Saints to make it 2-2 with his first half last minute strike and second half early strike. If he wasn’t replaced match could have ended differently, but destiny had something else planned for the opposition no.9.
Gabbiadini may get another chance at Wembley, but 35-year-old Zlatan had his final say. He deserved to lift another trophy, and take another man of the match award home, and he deservedly headed home to lift Manchester fifth EFL Cup. Swedish talisman with his brace headed to another season in which he is approaching to 30 goal mark, he has 26 to his name this season.
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho looked emotional and didn’t seem to be taking part in the victory despite becoming only third manager in the history to win EFL Cup for the fourth time, two others are Nottingham Forests’s Brian Clough & Sir Alex Ferguson. Out of four of the championship, three of those have come during his stint at Chelsea.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) February 26, 2017
Zlatan Ibrahimovic euphoria was on top after winning the EFL Cup final as he said, “Wherever I have gone I have won. I think this is trophy number 32 for me. This is what I predicted.
“My friend, I keep doing it. I am enjoying it in England. You appreciate it more the older you get. This is what I came for – to win, and I am winning.”
There are speculations that Ibrahimovic will leave at the end of the season after conquering England, and Mourinho feels he has one more year in him to play for Manchester. He said I want beg to him to stay, but he wants him to stay for one more season.
“I never beg a player to play for me, but we all want and believe he will stay one more season,” said Mourinho.
“I never beg for a player to sign a contract. But if needed, the fans can go to the door of his house and stay there all night.”
Manchester United has already won a trophy this season in EFL Cup, and they are still alive in FA Cup and Europa League, it gives Zlatan & Mourinho both hope to win more trophies in their debut season for United. They can also hope for their Champions League berth finish in Premier League, and it may give Zlatan a hint to stay for the sake of Uefa Champions League glory, which is only missing trophy in his laurels.