Get ready for the EFL Cup final clash between Manchester United and Southampton with our in-depth match preview.
Manchester United vs Southampton
EFL Cup final
Sunday 26th February
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
For Southampton, it’s a first major final in 14 years and the chance to win only a second major piece of silverware in the club’s history.
Claude Puel’s side will be hoping to replicate the success of Lawrie McMenemy’s 1976 team, who famously beat Manchester United 1-0 in the FA Cup final, in one of the biggest shocks in the competition’s history.
This will be Southampton’s second trip to the new Wembley Stadium, with their previous visit producing a 4-1 win over Carlisle United in the final of the 2010 Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
For United, the game is an opportunity to earn a first piece of silverware under manager José Mourinho, and a fifth League Cup title.
ROUTES TO THE FINAL
Both teams entered the competition at the third-round stage, due to their European commitments. For Saints, it has been Premier League teams all the way, while United started off at League One outfit Northampton before taking on top-flight sides the rest of the way.
R3: Northampton Town (a) W 3-1 (Carrick, Herrera, Rashford)
R4: Manchester City (h) W 1-0 (Mata)
QF: West Ham United (h) W 4-1 (Ibrahimović 2, Martial 2)
SF 1: Hull City (h) W 2-0 (Mata, Fellaini)
SF 2: Hull City (a) L 1-2 (Pogba)
R3: Crystal Palace (h) W 2-0 (Austin pen, Hesketh)
R4: Sunderland (h) W 1-0 (Boufal)
QF: Arsenal (a) W 2-0 (Clasie, Bertrand)
SF 1: Liverpool (h) W 1-0 (Redmond)
SF 2: Liverpool (a) W 1-0 (Long)
Manchester United: Henrikh Mkhitaryan (hamstring) is out after suffering an injury in Wednesday's Europa League win at Saint-Etienne, but Michael Carrick (calf) is fit after going off injured in the same game. Wayne Rooney has also been struggling with a muscle injury, but has begun training again and is expected to feature, while Phil Jones will be assessed ahead of kick-off. Midfielder Ander Herrera is available again after serving a one-match suspension in midweek.
Southampton: Sofiane Boufal has returned to training after missing the 4-0 win at Sunderland with an ankle injury and will be assessed ahead of kick-off to determine whether he can play a part in the squad. New signing Martín Cáceres could also feature for the first time, after impressing on last weekend's training camp, in Spain. Virgil van Dijk, Charlie Austin, Jérémy Pied, Matt Targett and Alex McCarthy remain sidelined.
Both sides will head to Wembley high on confidence, with Saints having thrashed Sunderland 4-0 away from home in their last outing. United, meanwhile, are in ominous form, having lost just one of their last 25 games across all competitions.
Manchester United’s previous five:
Saint-Etienne (a) W 1-0 (Mkhitaryan) (Europa League)
Blackburn Rovers (a) W 2-1 (Rashford, Ibrahimović) (FA Cup)
Saint-Etienne (h) W 3-0 (Ibrahimović 3) (Europa League)
Watford (h) W 2-0 (Mata, Martial)
Leicester City (a) W 3-0 (Mkhitaryan, Ibrahimović, Mata)
Southampton’s previous five:
Sunderland (a) W 4-0 (Gabbiadini 2, Denayer og, Long)
West Ham United (h) L 1-3 (Gabbiadini)
Swansea City (a) L 1-2 (Long)
Arsenal (h) L 0-5 (FA Cup)
Liverpool (a) W 1-0 (Long) (EFL Cup)
There is no doubt about who United’s main man is, with Zlatan Ibrahimović having banged in 24 goals already this season, across all competitions. The threat doesn’t end there, though. United have plenty of other attacking options, and Juan Mata, with nine goals and five assists, will no doubt be one to watch.
Top scorers: Zlatan Ibrahimović (24), Juan Mata (9)
Most assists: Wayne Rooney (10), Ander Herrera (7)
Unlike United, Saints will not have their top scorer available, with Charlie Austin out injured. But Manolo Gabbiadini, with three goals in his first two games for the club, should offer plenty of threat. The creativity of Dušan Tadić and James Ward-Prowse cannot be discounted by United either.
Top scorers: Charlie Austin (9), Jay Rodriguez, Shane Long (5)
Most assists: Dušan Tadić (4), James Ward-Prowse (4)
Unsurprisingly, United have had by far the better of the results during the long history of meetings between the sides. Still, the one and only meeting at Wembley to date went the way of Saints, so hopefully that 100 per cent record will remain intact after this weekend.
Manchester United: 62
Previous four meetings:
August 2016: Manchester United 2-0 Southampton
January 2016: Manchester United 0-1 Southampton (Austin)
September 2015: Southampton 2-3 Manchester United (Pellè 2)
January 2015: Manchester United 0-1 Southampton (Tadić)
Southampton 6-3 Manchester United (Premier League, October 1996)
DID YOU KNOW?
– Saints are just the second side in League Cup history to reach the final without conceding a goal, after Spurs managed it in 1981/82.
– Southampton's run to the final this season has come via seven goals in the competition – all from different scorers.
– José Mourinho has reached the League Cup final three times previously – in 2005, 2007 and 2015 – winning on each occasion, with Chelsea.
– This will be the second major domestic cup final of Claude Puel’s managerial career, having taken Monaco to the French League Cup showpiece in 2001.
NOT AT THE GAME?
If you weren’t fortunate enough to get your hands on one of the sought-after tickets, don’t despair too much, as we’ll be covering all angles for you.
Our live matchday centre will be running throughout the afternoon on southamptonfc.com, with all the build-up, as well as live match updates and free audio commentary.
Additionally, we will have all the key updates, as well as loads of behind-the-scenes access from Wembley on our various social channels, so make sure you are following us on all of them…