LONDON • As his players cavorted around with their medals on Sunday, dancing around the trophy amid the champagne spray and confetti, Jose Mourinho stood back from the partying.
He looked strangely subdued, like the father of a bride at a shotgun wedding. "I'm very happy," he insisted no fewer than five times in an eight-minute post-match press conference following Manchester United's 3-2 victory over Southampton in the League Cup final at Wembley. At one stage he even flashed a smile to prove it.
Beneath the poker face, the United manager was more than happy; nothing pleases the Portuguese like winning trophies.
The 54-year-old is the first United manager to win a major competition in his maiden season at Old Trafford and the 19th trophy of his glittering career made him only the third manager after Alex Ferguson and Brian Clough, to enjoy four League Cup triumphs.
This one, he said, was important to him because "I put pressure on myself, so to win with Manchester United is a relief."
TOILS BREED SUCCESS
The lion is born a lion - it means I'm a lion. I feel in good shape. I train hard... I'm from the old school where they work hard and get what they get from doing the hard work, not like the new school where it is easy to get what you want.
ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC , the 35-year-old Manchester United match-winner, who likened himself to a lion.
He had begun, though, with a lament for Southampton and their coach Claude Puel, because "the man that left this table a couple of minutes ago has a reason to be really sad and disappointed".
United led through goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Jesse Lingard before Southampton's new signing, Manolo Gabbiadini, hit back with two goals of his own.
I never beg for a player to sign a contract or to play for me. But if needed, United fans can go to the door of his house and stay there all night.
JOSE MOURINHO, United manager, lobbying the fans to seal his top scorer to a contract extension at Old Trafford.
The striker, who joined at the end of January from Napoli for €17 million (S$25.3 million), had seen an 11th-minute effort wrongly disallowed for offside. Ibrahimovic deepened Southampton's sense of injustice with the winning goal on 87 minutes.
"The fuel was in their legs, not ours," Mourinho said. "If we go to extra time, we would be in trouble.
"We coped because we are humble, we stuck together and fought together, then we had a bit of luck because the 3-2 came at a moment when they couldn't react."
The most intriguing response, though, came when Mourinho was asked whether winning the LeagueCup, United's first leading trophy of his tenure, represented a "platform" for United to build on.
"I don't want to look at it as a platform," he said. "It's something that happened. It's one less competition that we delete from our minds. It's finished. It's a sense of relief."
Mourinho's first season in charge of United has assumed the feeling of an odyssey. The challenge of winning three trophies - or four, if one counts the Community Shield - might be made or broken over an eight-day period next month when they face FC Rostov over two legs of a Europa League tie, either side of an FA Cup quarter-final at Chelsea.
Then there is the Premier League, where a top-four finish remains a target. It is a long, long way from mission accomplished.
The hope for Mourinho must be for this Cup success to increase his players' hunger for more. He wants his players to learn from the winning feeling as they chase two more Cups this term, and ideally Premier League and Champions League glory the next.
"The reality is that we want more. My contract is long, I have two more years with this one, so hopefully I can win more," he said. "This season I know it's difficult, but the reality is we have to try to fight for more."
THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN