Zlatan Ibrahimovic played the role of villain, as his winner three minutes from full-time bested a valiant effort from Southampton in the EFL Cup final at Wembley.
Manolo Gabbiadini continued his tremendous form and scored twice, which brought his total to five in three games at Southampton, to cancel out opening goals from Ibrahimovic and Jesse Lingard.
Ibrahimovic’s 26th goal of the season, however, helped Manchester United clinch their fifth League Cup — and first since 2010 — on a record-equalling 49th trip to Wembley in a thrilling 3-2 win.
Southampton’s lone triumph in a major final remains the 1976 FA Cup victory, which came against United.
United, who made a sluggish start, took full advantage of second life after Gabbiadini saw his opening goal ruled out by the linesman’s flag.
Oriol Romeu drew the ire from the referee for a foul on Ander Herrera and Ibrahimovic tucked the resulting free kick beyond Fraser Forster to make it 1-0 to United on 19 minutes.
Southampton came close in quick succession to an equaliser, as Gabbiadini teed up James Ward-Prowse whilst Nathan Redmond set up Dusan Tadic. Both attempts drew saves from David de Gea.
Lingard then found space along the edge of the box before receiving the ball from the wing and fired past the keeper to double United’s lead against the run of play.
But Gabbiadini ensured Southampton had life when it went in for half-time, as he met Ward-Prowse’s vicious cross from close-range in stoppage time.
Redmond nearly levelled the match after the restart, but he had his volley palmed away. Gabbiadini, though, popped up moments later for his second tally, twirling an effort into the bottom corner.
Romeu came closest to giving Southampton a deserved lead, as he beat Paul Pogba in the air, though his header clanged off the post on the 63 minutes.
Lingard twice had chances to restore United’s advantage, but a crucial block from Maya Yoshida prevent an effort on target and he fired over the bar in the 76th minute from an open position.
Ander Herrera, who had already left an impact on the match, connected with Ibrahimovic as he powered in a header from six-yards out to secure the win.
Manchester United: de Gea, Valencia, Bailly, Smalling, Rojo, Herrera, Pogba, Lingard (Rashfored 77), Mata (Carrick 46), Martial (Fellaini 90), Ibrahimovic.
Unused subs: Romero, Blind, Young, Rooney.
Goals: Ibrahimovic (19, 87), Lingard (38).
Bookings: Herrera (24).
Southampton: Forster, Bertrand, Stephens, Yoshida, Cedric, Romeu, Davis (Rodriguez 90), Ward-Prowse, Tadic (Boufal 77), Redmond, Gabbiadini (Long 83).
Unused subs: Hassen (GK), McQueen, Caceres, Hojbjerg.
Goals: Gabbiadini (45+2, 49)
Bookings: Romeu (18), Stephens (41), Redmond (56).