Michael Laudrup did his reputation as one of Europe's brightest young managers no harm on Sunday as he masterminded Swansea City AFC's first major trophy triumph in a swashbuckling 5-0 defeat of Bradford City AFC in the English League Cup final.
The south Wales club, who are celebrating their centenary season, cut a silky swath through fourth-division Bradford to record the largest winning margin in the final of English football's second most prestigious knockout competition. Indefatigable winger Nathan Dyer and midfield linchpin Jonathan de Guzmán both struck twice, while Michu – a revelation since joining from Rayo Vallecano de Madrid in July – registered his 19th goal in all competitions for the club.
"We can be proud of this. It was a little strange being a major favourite in the final and we had to win this," said 48-year-old former FC Spartak Moskva and Getafe CF tactician Laudrup. "The players did great and played with a lot of confidence and patience.
Winning was the most important thing, but the way we did it was a great performance."
Having tasted European Cup glory with FC Barcelona at Wembley in 1992, and won domestic titles in Italy, the Netherlands and Spain, the two-time Danish player of the year is no stranger to prodigious achievement. However, the magnitude of this latest feat is not lost on a manager who will lead Swansea into the UEFA Europa League next term.
"It's the most important trophy I've won," he said. "You will win trophies with big clubs. With smaller clubs, it's very rare you go into finals and, when you do, you normally play one of the big teams."
When Laudrup took up the reins in June, the former Real Madrid CF schemer was tasked with building on the favourable foundations laid by predecessor and now Liverpool FC boss Brendan Rodgers. Preserving the club's glowing reputation for eye-catching football in only their second season in the Premier League was also on Laudrup's agenda.
Indeed, luring cultured playmakers Pablo Hernández and De Guzmán as well as potent forward Michu has played no small part in making that ambition a reality, while older associates Dyer and Wayne Routledge have flourished in wide berths. "We have come so far as a club and as a city," said Dyer. "
For us to win this cup final is massive for us. This is a great day."
"Things just keep getting better and better," added 30-year-old Leon Britton, who has featured in every professional division for Swansea and was part of the team that was perilously close to dropping out of the football league ten years ago. "We've got to give credit to everyone at the football club; they are an example of how football clubs should be run."
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