Manchester United are poised to make history today - so what exactly must they do to beat Southampton?

Jose Mourinho's men are one trophy away from equalling Liverpool's total title haul. Here we take a look at five aspects of today's final that United need to keep an eye out for

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The Independent Football

As Manchester United prepare to take on Southampton today in the EFL Cup final, the club stand on the brink of making history.

Having won 43 major trophies across their 139-year history, United are now just one title away from matching Liverpool's own record of 44.

While the lure of winning their first trophy under manager Jose Mourinho will surely be enough, the opportunity to draw level with their fierce rivals adds another incentive to this afternoon's showdown.

In light of this, we take a look at five key aspects of the game that United must focus on if they're to walk away from Wembley as EFL Cup champions:

Gabbiadini must be kept under wraps

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Manolo Gabbiadini has made a flying start at Southampton (Getty)

Whichever backline Mourinho goes with, Manolo Gabbiadini will be the man to monitor. The Italian has made a flying start at St Mary's, scoring three goals in two games for the south coast club - but he brings so much more. As a forward who can offer vital link-up play in the final third, while providing threat in behind, the Italian is the sort of hybrid forward who can marry the key qualities of both Charlie Austin and Shane Long. His overall threat has been obvious, having fired off 11 shots in just 163 minutes so far, and his hold-up play has similarly impressed. "I think he lost just six balls of 33 that went to him and for a striker that is very good as there is always little space," Claude Puel said after the West Ham game. This is a striker who can not only get the ball in good areas but keep it too. If United went to starve Southampton's options in the final third, and nullify their threat in front of goal, Gabbiadini cannot be afforded time or space on the ball. 

Outsmart defensive general Romeu

Since joining in the summer for £5m, the former Barcelona youngster has consolidated his place at the heart of Southampton's midfield unit. Impressively, Oriol Romeu has matched N'Golo Kante for tackles and interceptions per game this term - and won more duels, aerial balls and recoveries. Unlike opposite man Ander Herrera, the 25-year-old players a deeper role and primarily shields the defence. With more than 46 per cent of his passes being made within his own half, much of Romeu's involvement is between his own box and the halfway line. This rear-guard shield will pose a considerable challenge for United and it could require Zlatan Ibrahimovic dropping deeper than usual or overloading the wings in a bid to circumnavigate the Spaniard. However, with Van Dijk out of the equation Romeu will be encumbered with work - something United can look to exploit given the quality on offer among their front men.

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Oriol Romeu has excelled since joining Southampton (AFP/Getty Images)

Mata meets Maya

Maya Yoshida's best season yet...

Shots faced per 90 - 8.9    

Duels won per 90 - 6.5    

Passing accuracy - 85%    

Passing accuracy in own half - 91%

Juan Mata will need to have his wits about him today if he's to exert the sort of influence that has seen United shine with him in the side. With nine goals and four assists to his name, Mata has established himself as a key cog in Mourinho's side - the fact United have lost just once out of the 25 starts that the midfielder has made this term clearly demonstrates this. But Mata comes up against a defender who, throughout his career at Southampton, has won 11 of his last 12 EFL Cup appearances, conceding only four goals in the process. And despite playing without partner Van Dijk alongside him in three of Saints' cup games this season, Maya Yoshida has more than proved his ability to step up to the big occasion. As the Japanese continues to enjoy his best season yet, Mourinho will know that the battle between Mata and Yoshida could determine today's outcome.

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Mata has established himself as key cog in (Getty)

More of the same from Herrera

The Spaniard enjoyed limited success in an advanced position during Louis van Gaal but since dropping back under Mourinho, Herrera has excelled. Indeed, the 27-year-old has won more duels, more interceptions and more passes than Kante this season, despite playing four fewer games. Herrera's attacking game has also come on leaps and bounds, with the midfielder making 1,028 passes in opposition halves this season - one of only five Premier League midfielders to make it into four digits this term. It's very simple: United need more of the same from the Spaniard if they're to ensure their midfield unit keeps meticulously ticking over against their Southampton opponents.

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Herrera is well rested ahead of the EFL Cup final (Getty)

Blood, sweat and tears

The last obstacle to overcome will be in United's heads. A congested fixture schedule has not been kind to the side while Mourinho's insistence to field his strongest players across all competitions means there will be a number of heavy legs heading out at Wembley today, even before kick-off. As such, Southampton will certainly be the fresher of the two teams after a two-week break in which United have played three games. Mourinho’s men will need to dig deep on both a psychological and physical level if they're to overcome their well-rested opponents.

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