Former Manchester United defender Phil Neville has compared Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Eric Cantona after the Sweden striker inspired the Red Devils to a 3-2 win over Southampton in the EFL Cup final on 26 February.

United were dominated by the Saints for large parts of the showpiece event at Wembley, but powered to a 2-0 lead against the run of play in the first half courtesy of a sublime Ibrahimovic free-kick and a cool finish from Jesse Lingard.

Southampton striker Manolo Gabbiadiani scored twice either side of the break to level proceedings before Ibrahimovic broke the deadlock with an 87th minute header from Ander Herrera's cross to give Jose Mourinho his first major trophy as United boss.

Neville hailed Ibrahimovic as the catalyst driving United forward this season and equated him to the role French striker Cantona played during the Alex Ferguson era in the 1990s.

"Zlatan is the leader. I know Wayne Rooney lifted the cup but Zlatan is the leader on the pitch," the former United defender told Sky Sports.

"When Cantona walked onto the pitch with his collar up he looked like he loved Old Trafford, he had the aura and confidence. Ibrahimovic is the same.

"Sometimes you hate people who have that much arrogance but I love that because he delivers at the same time.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 35, proved to be the difference as Manchester United beat Southampton at Wembley Getty Images

"When you're a manager and join a new club you need one player who sings off your hymn sheet. Ibrahimovic is that player for Mourinho."

Neville also highlighted Ibrahimovic's contribution in defending set-pieces and praised his work-rate in the build-up to the winning goal.

He said: "United were awful at defending set pieces but Ibrahimovic was there heading clear in the build up to his goal.

"He wins the first header and makes up a lot of ground to be the first point of the counter attack.

"With Southampton all over the place, he finds himself on the right and then gets himself in the box and produces a trademark finish."