Ibrahi­movic leads Man U to League Cup

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - ROB HAR­RIS LON­DON —

Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic pow­ered in a late header to win the League Cup for Manch­ester United on Sun­day, seal­ing a 3-2 soc­cer vic­tory over Southamp­ton af­ter a twogoal lead was thrown away by José Mour­inho’s side.

It was Ibrahi­movic’s sec­ond goal in the fi­nal af­ter putting United ahead from a free kick, tak­ing the 35-year-old Swede’s tally to 26 goals in an in­cred­i­ble first sea­son at United where his per­for­mances have more than lived up to the swag­ger.

That bravado was flaunted on the Wem­b­ley Sta­dium pitch amid the cel­e­bra­tions.

Asked by a tele­vi­sion re­porter if some­thing spe­cial was un­fold­ing at United, Ibrahi­movic replied: “I came. That’s spe­cial.”

The free sum­mer trans­fer win­dow re­cruit en­sured Mour­inho be­came the first man­ager in United his­tory to win a tro­phy in his first sea­son, adding to his three League Cup tri­umphs with Chelsea.

“(It) is quite a sense of relief,” Mour­inho said.

United’s frag­ile de­fence, though, nearly con­trived to throw away the chance of glory. Al­though Jesse Lin­gard ex­tended United’s lead in the 38th minute, Southamp­ton fought back with goals ei­ther side of half­time from Manolo Gab­bia­dini. But as Southamp­ton pushed for its first ma­jor tro­phy since beat­ing United in the 1976 FA Cup tro­phy, Ibrahi­movic pro­duced the bul­let header in the 87th minute from An­der Her­rera’s cross.

Now, Ibrahi­movic has won a ma­jor tro­phy in a fifth coun­try af­ter hon­ours in France, Italy, Spain and the Nether­lands.

Al­though Wayne Rooney went up to col­lect the tro­phy as cap­tain, that was his only role at Wem­b­ley. The 31-year-old for­ward was forced to watch from the bench as his older team­mate pro­duced an age­less, match-win­ning con­tri­bu­tion.

The striker didn’t cost United any trans­fer fee when he joined in the sum­mer trans­fer win­dow as a free agent af­ter leav­ing Paris Sain­tGer­main. He sought an­other fi­nal chal­lenge, even in the twi­light of his ca­reer, rather than an easy-pay day in an in­fe­rior league.

It is United now on course for a tre­ble, still in con­tention for the FA Cup and Europa League.

The big­ger tar­get, though, is re­turn­ing to the Cham­pi­ons League through win­ning the Europa League or by fin­ish­ing in the Premier League’s top four. United is cur­rently sixth.

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