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EFL Cup success gives Man Utd and Ibrahimovic the perfect platform

There's no point in Manchester United fans denying that the EFL Cup has always been regarded as their lowest priority when it comes to silverware. Under the decades of dominance with Sir Alex Ferguson, their eyes were always on winning the Premier League or Champions League.

That said, no manager has won the competition more often than Ferguson, which would suggest that he still saw the value in it.

On Sunday afternoon, following a 3-2 win over Southampton in the final, Jose Mourinho joined United's legendary manager as the most successful coach in the competition, alongside Brian Clough. It's not bad company for United's current boss to keep.

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His side are now the current holders of both domestic trophies, having won the FA Cup 10 months ago, and while their league position isn't what the supporters would want, they wouldn't swap their two brilliant days out at Wembley for the two points they are currently lagging that put them outside of the top four.

Last May, Jesse Lingard scored a goal in extra-time for the 10 men of United to seal the FA Cup. At the weekend, it was a winner three minutes from time by Zlatan Ibrahimovic that saw them lift the trophy. These are the moments football fans live for. It's a far cry from the two goals United scored in injury time to win the Champions League in 1999 but you only had to watch the fans at Wembley to see how much they enjoyed it.

As expected, the celebration police were out in force, with rival fans mocking United supporters for being happy their team won another trophy. It should be beneath them, apparently.

United have won more trophies in 10 months than Liverpool have in 10 years, though, so maybe they are not in the best position to turn their nose up at the EFL Cup. Also, contrary to popular belief in north London, finishing in the top four is not a trophy, meaning Arsenal have taken 13 seasons to match the success of Louis Van Gaal and Mourinho at United over the past year.

Maybe United fans have been snobs about the competition in the past but their former captain, Gary Neville, has never viewed the EFL Cup this way. Back in 2011, when United were champions, meaning he had no reason to raise the status of the competition, Neville spoke of its worth.

"Being on the podium is a drug," he said. "Having a medal put round your neck and running round a stadium with the Cup is addictive ... Stop saying the EFL Cup is the least important trophy. Let's say it is an important cup and to win it can lead to great things."

Manchester United striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Zlatan Ibrahimovic's brace was enough to hand Manchester United the EFL Cup on Sunday.

If this is United's only success this season and they fail to qualify for the Champions League, then the supporters will be rightly disappointed. But with two competitions still up for grabs and a taste for success, who's to know what else they may achieve this season. It's not unthinkable that they could win the FA Cup, especially if they knock out Chelsea in the next round, or that they could lift the Europa League, particularly after Tottenham Hotspur's early exit.

If there's one player who could help them win this trio of trophies, it's Ibrahimovic, whose two goals made all the difference against Southampton.

United's free transfer signing has now scored 26 goals in 38 appearances this season, outperforming even the most optimistic of supporters' hopes at the start of the campaign. He may have stolen the show at PSG last season, scoring 50 goals in 51 appearances, but the common belief was that at 35, there was no way he could maintain a top class goalscoring record when making the leap from Ligue 1 to the Premier League.

After the EFL Cup final, Ibrahimovic was in no mood to play down the success of his career, reminding everyone this was his 32nd trophy. This is what Ibrahimovic does. He wins things.

His future at the club may not be as concrete as Mourinho has led people to believe it was a few months ago, with Ibrahimovic playing hard to get as far as next season is concerned. But by then, United may well have Antoine Griezmann scoring the bulk of their goals, or a matured Anthony Martial or Marcus Rashford.

But for now, in this campaign, the Swedish legend could make all the difference to his current club. If Ibrahimovic really is considering moving on in a few months' time, you know he'll be as desperate as anyone to add more winners medals to his collection. And if his track record is anything to go by, you wouldn't be surprised if he did.

Scott is one of ESPN FC's Manchester United bloggers. Follow him on Twitter: @R_o_M.

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