Manchester United and Southampton will be heading to Wembley on Sunday to battle for the EFL Cup. So what is this famous football tournament and how did each team reach this year’s final?
The EFL Cup – A Mini-Guide to the Tournament
The prestigious English Football League (EFL) Cup tournament has been taking place annually since 1960. All Premier League, Championship League, League One and League Two clubs are eligible to participate in the seven-round competition. All matches except for the semi-finals are single leg ties.
Premiership clubs competing in the European leagues and tournaments don’t enter the competition until the third round, while the remaining Premier League teams enter in the second round. Clubs in the other leagues begin their journey in round one.
The victors win a place in the UEFA Europa League, unless they have qualified by another method. They also receive the EFL Cup. This striking football trophy has a Georgian-style design, based on a loving cup, and boasts three elegant C-scroll handles. It stands on a plinth which features a band inscribed with the winning teams’ names.
Manchester United – Their Route to the Cup Final
José Mourinho will be hoping that Manchester United can beat the Saints to claim their second piece of silverware since he took over as manager, but their road to Wembley hasn’t been a smooth one.
Goals from Carrick, Herrera and Rashford secured them a 3-1 win against Northampton Town in the third round, but their fourth-round tie against old rivals Manchester City was a tighter affair. Juan Mata got the winner for the Reds in the end. Ibrahimovic and Martial scored two apiece in the quarter-finals, while their opponents, West Ham, were only able to get one in the back of the net.
Hull City initially made things difficult for United in the first leg of the semi-finals, but the Reds found a way through in the second half. They headed into the second leg with a two-goal advantage – and it was a lead they needed in the end, as the match didn’t go to plan. A penalty from Huddlestone put Hull ahead and, although Pogba equalised, Niasse’s late attempt gave the Tigers the win. The place in the final, however, went to Manchester United.
Southampton – How They Clinched a Cup Final Place with a Clean Sheet
The Saints breezed through to the final without conceding a single goal. A Charlie Austin penalty put them ahead against Crystal Palace in the third round, while Jake Hesketh’s first ever senior goal also turned out to be the match-winner.
A solitary goal from Sofiane Boufal ensured that they defeated Sunderland and earned a place in the quarter-finals, where they took on Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. Jordy Clasie and Ryan Bertrand scored for the visitors, to secure them a pair of semi-final matches against Liverpool. Southampton won each leg by 1–0, ditching Jurgen Klopp’s team out of the competition and earning themselves a trip to Wembley.
Manchester United have won the title four times already and are currently flying higher in the Premier League than the Saints. However, many would argue that they are still far from the team they used to be. Southampton, on the other hand, have made the journey to the final look almost easy and will be keen to win the tournament for the first time.
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