Manchester United great Ryan Giggs believes winning the EFL Cup is crucial for Jose Mourinho’s developing side.
United step out at Wembley against Southampton on Sunday looking to avenge the FA Cup final defeat of 1976 and, far more importantly, win their first major trophy under the Portuguese.
Last season’s FA Cup is the only major success United have tasted since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, but things seem to be going in the right direction under Louis van Gaal’s successor.
The Red Devils may have grander ambitions than the EFL Cup, but fans’ favourite Giggs believes success on Sunday will be hugely influential.
“I think it is always important to win a trophy,” he told Press Association Sport.
“This was the first trophy I won and it was the first trophy that I think Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo won, so it does give players that feeling of what it is like to win something with Manchester United.
“That gives you the confidence to then go on and it sort of takes the pressure off a little bit that you have already won something this season.
“Especially with United going for the fourth place, the FA Cup and the Europa League, it is sort of that little bit of security that you’ve already won something.
“It doesn’t mean that you rest on your laurels, but it is that sort of little pressure going rather than getting beat in the final and the pressure is like doubled because you might not win anything.
“I think it is a really important trophy to win, especially this year.
“I think for most fans, win a trophy and get a Champions League spot this year would be hailed as a successful season building for next season.
“We’re on track to do that and obviously we’re still doing well in the FA Cup and the Europa.”
This will be the first major final since joining the club aged 14 that Giggs will watch without being tied to United.
The 43-year-old made a record 963 appearances for the club before becoming assistant manager – a role he left in the summer to pursue a career in management.
Giggs will therefore be watching Sunday’s match like as a fan and expects Southampton to prove stern opposition.
“It won’t be easy,” he said. “Southampton have proved in the competition that they can produce performances.
“Obviously they have the two centre-halves missing who have been a big part of things, but still they’re an organised team and a team that will counter-attack really quickly.
“It won’t be easy. I mean finals are never easy.
“We saw that last year in the FA Cup final when we were losing against Palace, even in the semi-final at Wembley when we had to score late against Everton through Anthony Martial.
“It is not going to be easy but as a United fan obviously I hope we do it.”