Midfielder not pulling his weight: Three things we learned about Manchester United in win over Southampton
By Matt Farr
Football Insider analyses three major talking points from Manchester United’s EFL Cup Final victory over Southampton on Sunday.
Take nothing away from the quality and the instincts shown by Southampton goalscorer Manolo Gabbiadini, but Manchester United did not do themselves any favours in defence. The centre-back pairing of Eric Bailly and Chris Smalling were unconvincing, allowing Southampton’s attackers too much time on the ball. Bailly, meanwhile, was tasked with marking Gabbiadini, and couldn’t keep tabs on his movement. Out wide, meanwhile, the overlapping Saints full-backs caused numerous problems for United. Ryan Bertrand and Cedric Soares took great pleasure from running at Marcos Rojo and Antonio Valencia, and it was often the Southampton duo that came out on top. Oriol Romeu came close to scoring for Southampton from a corner, but the Saints man – who is not normally a goal threat – should not have been beaten in the air by the 6ft 3″ Pogba. Every time the ball was played into the Manchester United box, Southampton smelled blood. Zlatan Ibrahimovic rescued them late on, but they still paid a significant price for some poor defending.
Absence of big-game players
Manchester United have a number of high-profile players in their side, but only Zlatan Ibrahimovic really stepped-up to the plate on the big occasion. Midfielder Paul Pogba once again failed to pull his weight in a marquee as he failed to justify his £89million transfer fee, while the likes of Anthony Martial and Juan Mata were ineffective in the wider areas for Manchester United. For much of the game, Southampton were the better side. They dictated the tempo of the game throughout the first-half, but United could have done more to stop them. Jose Mourinho’s side have performed very well of late, but their performance perhaps showed signs of fatigue from their gruelling schedule. However, this was a cup Final, and for a lot of the time, United certainly did not treat it like one.
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The value of Carrick
At half-time, Manchester United had a 2-1 lead. However, they had been second-best and Mourinho instantly turned to Michael Carrick. The 35-year-old has been the midfield lynchpin for Manchester United in recent season, but was left out of the starting line-up after picking up a minor calf injury against Saint-Etienne on Wednesday. However, the urgent need to turn to Carrick to dictate the tempo in the midfield proved just how valuable he is a player to the United cause. His display in France last week also spoke of his value, but with his contract set to expire at the end of the season, his long-term future remains unclear. Mourinho might not view him as a regular starter, but he is still an important player nonetheless. The Pogba-Herrera partnership is yet to convince, and despite his advancing years, it is Carrick that has the answers. Mourinho must be looking to offer him an extended stay at Old Trafford.
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