Jose Mourinho has revealed that he abandoned his plan of introducing Wayne Rooney for Ander Herrera during Manchester United’s 3-2 League Cup final win after the Spaniard provided the assist for Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s late winner.
And with extra-time looming, Mourinho was on the cusp of sending Rooney into the fray, but elected to throw on Marouane Fellaini instead after Ibrahimovic grabbed a late winner.
Mourinho, after some hesitation, admitted that he was planning to bring off Herrera – who set-up Zlatan’s second goal with a sumptuous cross – prior to his side’s winner.
“First of all I feel that the man that left the table a couple of minutes ago [Claude Puel] has a reason to be really sad and disappointed,” he said. “Because he did fantastic work, his team did fantastic work, his team deserved extra-time and to lose minute 87 with very little time to try to react like they did in first-half is a little unfair on them.
“I want to say these words to Claude to Southampton players and Southampton fans because they gave us a beautiful final for the neutral, beautiful football match, so I want to have this word for them.
“You could feel the difference in freshness. I think they were in Spain, they were quiet, they were working, they were preparing, we were playing, we were travelling, we were playing Europa League, we were playing Premier League, we were playing FA Cup.
“And we could see that in the moment the game was broken. With the 2-2 they have an advantage and I think we were lucky to be 2-0 but we were very unlucky to be 2-1, because it changed the direction of the game.”
It was clear that Mourinho, normally a man of firm convictions and overwhelming pragmatism, was unsure over when exactly he would send Rooney into the fray at Wembley.
He knew that United needed a different dynamic – a new sort of influence, above anything – but he waited, and then waited some more, perhaps sensing that one good ball towards Zlatan would make all the difference. And on reflection, he will be eternally thankful to whatever it was that convinced him to wait just a bit longer before using the Englishman.