The English League Cup has come in for plenty of flak in recent years. Seen as a second-tier competition by many big clubs, the Carabao Cup often sees teams field youth or reserve players as other big games take priority. However, for others, the competition provides a lucrative path to Europe or the chance to seek redemption in the form of official silverware. It’s not surprising then that some Carabao Cup have risen to the occasion and dominated the trophy more than once in its 60-year history by becoming multiple winners. So who are the most successful League Cup winners in the history of the trophy?
7 most succesful League Cup winners ever
Nottingham Forest (4 trophies)
Whilst Nottingham Forest have lingered in the Championship for the past two decades, making them one of the biggest clubs outside the Premier League, they were once one of England’s top teams. Forest was always a tough side to beat in the 1970s and 1980s and nothing shows this better than 4 League Cup victories during that spell.
Their first triumph came in 1978 where Brian Clough’s side edged out Bob Paisley’s Liverpool 1-0 in a replay following a 0-0 draw in the first clash at Wembley. A successful defence came one year later in 1979 where 2 goals from Garry Birtles helped Forest beat Southampton 3-2.
They would repeat their back-to-back successes in 1989 and 1990, once more under Clough’s stewardship, beating Luton and Oldham respectively. Indeed, Brian’s son Nigel scored a brace in the 3-1 victory against Luton marking one of the first times where father and son were victorious in securing a trophy.
Tottenham Hotspur (4 trophies)
Trophies have been scarce for Spurs in recent years but the League Cup has provided them with some respite, with the North London side ending up as Carabao Cup winners four times in total. Their love affair with the competition stretches back to the early 1970s, when the likes of Pat Jennings and Martin Peters led Spurs to two trophies in 1971 and 1973
It would take 25 years before they would be successful again where a last-minute Allan Nielsen goal gave them a 1-0 win over Leicester in the 1999 final. Skip forward a decade to 2008 where an emerging side under Juande Ramos famously beat Arsenal 5-1 in the semi-finals to book a spot at Wembley against Chelsea. Spurs would beat Chelsea 2-1 in extra-time thanks to a Jonathan Woodgate goal and secure the club’s most recent success in any competition.
Chelsea (5 wins)
The second biggest club in London have been one of the more consistent winners of the League Cup in recent memory, winning 4 of their 5 titles in the past 25 years. However, they were triumphant for the first time way back in 1965 where a side captained by Terry Venables defeated Leicester 3-2 on aggregate.
It would be over 30 years before The Blues would win the trophy again where extra-time goals from Roberto Di Matteo and Frank Sinclair saw them edge out Middlesbrough 2-0 in 1998. The 2000s were much more lucrative for Chelsea too with victories over Liverpool and Arsenal in 2005 and 2007 cementing their success under the watchful eye of Jose Mourinho. Mourinho would bag a third success with Chelsea in the cup in 2015 beating Spurs 2-0 in the final to secure a memorable trio of victories.
Manchester United (5 wins)
For a club with such a rich history like United, it’s surprising to see that all of their success in the League Cup has come within the last 30 years.
Their first triumph marked the arrival of the class of 92’ where they won that year’s final 1-0 in a dogged performance against Nottingham Forest. It would take over a decade for Alex Ferguson to win the trophy again as they would beat Wigan 4-0 in 2005 thanks to the likes of Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo.
They would enjoy back to back wins in 2008 and 2009 with hard-fought wins against Tottenham and Aston Villa respectively. It would be under the watch of Jose Mourinho where they would record their latest triumph beating Southampton 3-2 in 2017 thanks to a brace from Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Aston Villa (5 wins)
In the early years of the League Cup, no-one was more dominant than five-time winners Aston Villa. The Villans started with a bang winning the first-ever League Cup Final in 1961 beating Rotherham 3-2 on aggregate with Peter McParland securing the winning goal in extra time. Their best run would come later though with two wins in both the 1970s and 1990s.
After beating Norwich 1-0 in 1975 final, Villa’s triumph in 1977 would become famous for them taking three matches to finally defeat Everton. After the first match finished 0-0 and the subsequent replay ended 1-1 (even with extra time!), Villa would emerge 3-2 winners Old Trafford and end the long-running saga.
There were fewer problems in their 1994 and 1996 wins where they would secure comfortable 3-1 and 3-0 victories against Manchester United and Leeds respectively. These successes though remain fleeting victories for Villa, being their most recent trophies in top-tier domestic competition.
Manchester City (7 times)
No-one has dominated the Carabao Cup in the 21st century quite like regular winners Man City have.
Building on from successes in 1970 and 1976, City have torn the opposition apart in recent memory, winning 5 trophies since 2010 at a scary success rate. After wins in 2014 and 2016, the depth of City’s squad emerged with the likes of Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero constantly proving to be the difference makers in each match.
Under the stewardship of Pep Guardiola, City have been formidable in the competition, winning their last 24 ties (inc. aggregate) and bringing them a hat-trick of trophies in 2018, 2019, and 2020. An appearance in the 2021 final also looms which could further cement their place in the trophy’s record books and provide more winners medals for these League Cup experts.
Liverpool (8 times)
Liverpool have always been good in cup competitions and their record in the EFL Cup is no exception. Their eight victories is a record in the competition much of which can be attributed to their dominance in the 1980s. In terms of cup competitions, it has been their most successful, with only the league providing them with more silverware.
They would win four straight editions of the tournament from 1980-1984 led by the likes of Ian Rush and Kenny Dalglish. Rush would also be a part of the side that won the 1995 final setting a record for most finals won by a single player. Their success would continue into the 21st century though with Steven Gerrard leading the team on the pitch. He would be part of a team that won 3 trophies in 2001, 2003, and 2012 beating a host of teams ranging from giants like Manchester United to lesser-known sides such as Birmingham City and Cardiff City. They are, for the moment, the highest ranking winners of the Carabao Cup.
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