London (AFP) – Jose Mourinho can win the first major silverware of his Manchester United reign in Sunday’s League Cup final against Southampton and Wayne Rooney might be the man to help him do it.
Mourinho will become the first United manager to win a top prize in his maiden season at Old Trafford if his team triumph at Wembley.
Not even United legends Alex Ferguson and Matt Busby took one of the major trophies back to Manchester in their first season, but Mourinho insists the prospect of giving his team something to celebrate is more important than personal plaudits.
“I think when you have a taste of good things, you want to repeat,” the Portuguese said.
“I think when you get used to winning, when you don’t win, you miss it.”
United won the last of their four League Cups in 2010 and the club has lifted only one major trophy — the FA Cup under Mourinho’s predecessor Louis van Gaal last season — since Ferguson’s retirement in 2013.
Southampton famously upset the odds against United by winning the 1976 FA Cup for the only major trophy in their history and Mourinho has warned his players a similar outcome will be on the cards unless the current crop match the desire of Claude Puel’s men.
“If they want it more than us, they win,” he said. “So we have to be sure that they don’t want it more than us.”
“So I think the best team on the pitch will win and it will not depend on motivations because I don’t think that they are more motivated than us,” he added.
Mourinho has a major selection decision to make as he considers whether to hand Rooney a rare start, just days after the striker said he would remain at Old Trafford amid interest from Chinese Super League clubs.
Rooney could feature because Henrikh Mkhitaryan is sidelined with a hamstring injury and Mourinho said: “A final is a special match and he is an option for me.”
Puel meanwhile is convinced his patched-up defence can cope with red-hot United forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has taken over the mantle from Rooney.
Saints, who knocked out Arsenal and Liverpool en route to Wembley, are without key defender Virgil van Dijk and teenager Jack Stephens is set to be handed the job of shackling United’s superstar.
“Ibrahimovic can do a fantastic job. He is clinical, very efficient and he gives a good authority to the team. He is very self-confident,” Puel said.
“We’ll see if Jack starts this game. But for me of course I’m confident with the player, with the squad.
“There was big attention from Jack and all these young players. They stay calm and just focus about what they can have to do.
“All the players can play in my team against Ibrahimovic. They know him now. We will give a good answer.”
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