It’s the big one – okay, that’s a lie, but who would turn down the opportunity of lifting some silverware no matter how importantly it is regarded.
For Manchester United and Southampton, the chance to add some much-needed silverware to their respective trophy cabinets is just reward for giving this EFL Cup plenty of dedication while those around them treated it as an unwanted distraction.
A day out at Wembley….sorry, the National Stadium….is also a treat for supporters of any age or allegiance, and so we can expect a decent game on Sunday with plenty on the line for both sides.
Make no illusions, Jose Mourinho – the master of self-promotion – will be shouting from the rooftops if his United side triumph. Winning a trophy in your first season at a new club is an achievement, let’s not take that away from him, and from a domestic campaign that looks likely to fizzle out in to a fifth or sixth place finish, a cup will shield him from some of the flak likely to come his way.
As for Southampton, a campaign that started brightly has fizzled out somewhat of late, and injuries to key men – at the wrong time – have turned their 2016/17 into something of a damp squib. A season of transition was always expected with a new manager and players coming and going, and so Saints fans will see the year as a relative success if they can cap it with their first trophy in more than 40 years.
Match Winner Betting
Could the definitive factor here be Manchester United’s greater pedigree in cup finals? They have won on each of their last four trips to Wembley; the last of which was the FA Cup in 2016. Factor in that the players they have brought in – the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba – both have a wealth of experience in winning trophies and we can say with confidence that the Red Devils have an edge over the Saints before the players even take to the field.
This is Southampton’s first major cup final appearance in over a decade, and a look at their young squad reveals an outfit not blessed with big match experience. Fortune favours the brave of course – and there’s nothing quite as brave as the naivety of youth – but experience of showpiece occasions is very much lacking in the South Coast club’s armoury.
And how big a miss will the injured pair of Virgil van Dijk and Charlie Austin be for the Saints? A defensive lynchpin and a striker with a habit of putting the ball in the net are two components you’d like in your starting eleven when taking to the Wembley turf. Their Premier League form since the duo got injured reads W2 D0 L6.
United are not without their own injury concerns – Michael Carrick and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are definitely out, with Wayne Rooney and Phil Jones requiring late fitness tests – but their squad boasts much more depth than Southampton’s; besides which, they have match winners throughout their squad.
Incredibly, each of the last eight favourites in the FA Cup final and 5/5 in the EFL Cup have triumphed, and so we have no hesitation in recommending backing Manchester United to win at a widely available 4/5 (Paddy Power). That seems like a more than fair price.
The loss of Van Dijk to Southampton is catastrophic. They have lost 6/8 without him and conceded 15 goals in those matches, and his absence – along with the sale of Jose Fonte, lest we forget – has rather undermined the Saints’ hopes and dreams this term.
Presumably Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is exactly the kind of bloke to turn up in a cup final and do the business for his side. At 13/10 (Coral) to score any time, we simply have to get involved.
There’s no obvious pattern regarding goals in cup finals – we would typically expect them to be cagey affairs – and these two sides will probably offer up a conservative encounter. Mourinho is not known for his cosmopolitan outlook in big games, and so Under 2.5 Goals at 4/6 (bet365) has to be worth a try.
Manchester United to Win (4/5 with Paddy Power)
Under 2.5 Goals (4/6 with bet365)
Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Score Anytime (13/10 with Coral)