Manchester United were knocked out of the Capital One Cup in dramatic circumstances on Wednesday evening, as Sunderland sent David Moyes’ side out on penalties in a remarkable finsh at Old Trafford.
Goalkeeper Vito Mannone saved from Rafael da Silva—moments after David De Gea had denied Adam Johnson’s chance to win the tie—to clinch a 2-1 penalty shootout victory, after two goals in the last 90 seconds of injury-time had sparked a previously dull tie into remarkable life.
GIF via SBNation
The game on the night finished 2-1 to United, just as the first leg had gone 2-1 in Sunderland’s favour, leaving the lottery of penalties to decide matters.
Sunderland will now face Manchester City in the final at Wembley on March 2.
Behind after the first leg but now in front of their own fans, United got back on terms in the tie inside the first half after Jonny Evans scored from close range. But as the away goals tiebreaker does not come into effect in the competition until after extra-time, both sides were ultimately forced into an extra 30 minutes of action.
With barely a minute remaining, it appeared that Sunderland would be dramatically going through after David De Gea horribly spilled Phil Bardsley’s shot into his own net, but just seconds later, Javier Hernandez prodded home from close range at the other end to send matters to penalties.
Neither side appeared to be prepared, mentally or physically, for the resultant shootout—as seven of the ten players failed to find the net. Darren Fletcher, Marcos Alonso and Ki Sung-Yueng were more successful but, after Mannone denied Rafael, the visitors progressed.
Having already been knocked out of the FA Cup, David Moyes will therefore not take United to a domestic cup final in his first season at the club, although his pain may be soothed somewhat by the prospect of Chelsea playmaker Juan Mata undergoing a medical at the club on Thursday.
Afterwards, per Mike Henson of BBC Sport, Moyes said:
We did not play well enough, we had the chances to put it to bed but didn't. Sunderland played well and they deserve credit but overall we looked like we would get there until the last minute.
I was disappointed, but we did not play well enough in the end. They did not give us too many problems, we might have scored on the break but we couldn't, and it cost us.
That's football, we'll get on with it, pick ourselves up and go again.
If United fans needed any convincing of the need to sign Mata, the first 118 minutes on the night made a compelling case, with the home side frequently bereft of creativity and genuine purpose in the final third.
Needing his side to score in order to have any chance of reaching the final, Moyes opted for an attacking lineup, with Adnan Januzaj, Shinji Kagawa, Danny Welbeck and Hernandez named in the front four.
Sunderland, in contrast, were more circumspect—with Fabio Borini pushed into a wider attacking role and Lee Cattermole, Ki and Jack Colback tasked with keeping things tight in central midfield.
Considering those opposing styles, perhaps it should have been of little surprise that the first half was initially high on effort but low on clear-cut chances. United’s best chance came as Smalling crashed a far post header against the post, with Welbeck’s follow-up well blocked by O’Shea.
From United’s second opening, however, they were back on terms in the tie. It came from a simple corner—Evans gambling on the flick-on and arriving unmarked at the far post to turn home Welbeck’s flick-on with the utmost simplicity.
Level on aggregate (and going through on away goals if the scoreline remained the same through to the end of extra time), United struggled to create further openings—with Januzaj and Hernandez both lively without quite finding their range inside the box.
Indeed, as the two sides returned for the second half, it was increasingly Sunderland who looked more purposeful, with Borini seeing a dangerous looking effort charged down by Chris Smalling and Johnson struggling to find his range from distance before forcing one particularly good save from De Gea.
United were not completely without threat, though, as Januzaj saw a speculative long-range drive deflected just marginally over the top of Vito Mannone’s crossbar.
With 15 minutes remaining, a second goal had still to arrive, leaving the tie tentatively and evenly poised. At 1-0 on the night, extra-time loomed large, but another goal either way would make the benefactor odds-on favourites for Wembley.
The away side seemed least encumbered by that balancing act, as full-back Marcos Alonso flashed a brilliant first-time shot across De Gea’s goal from the acutest of angles, before Smalling and Evans were forced into desperate defence measures to thwart Fletcher and Borini.
But as extra-time loomed, Sunderland seemed content to wait for that opportunity, as United increasingly pushed forward in search of the second goal that would expediate their progression. Januzaj had one final opportunity to be the hero from a free-kick, but once Mannone dived to his left to claim it, the final whistle blew.
The first-half of extra-time was somewhat unremarkable, with Sunderland generally limited in their threat to a handful of hopeful corner deliveries. United had the best chance, as Januzaj’s good work sprung Hernandez clean through on goal, but the Mexican looked tired as he got his feet all mixed up and splayed a glorious opening well wide of the target.
It was a similar situation in the second half, although Phil Bardsley—who left United for Sunderland six years ago to the day—set the stage for a frantic last three minutes as his turn-and-driven cross flashed across the six-yard box without any Sunderland player getting a touch.
That was simply to be the start of a quite remarkable finish. With just 90 seconds left on the clock, it was again Bardsley on the ball as he teed up a shot at goal. It appeared to be a weak effort, but De Gea somehow contrived to let it slip through his hands and spill into his net.
The Spaniard looked distraught, seemingly certain he had cost his side the tie.
If that was the case, then he owes his team-mates for giving him the chance to redeem himself. With just a minute to get an equaliser that would send things to penalties, Januzaj and Welbeck combined inside the box for the young winger to cut the ball back across goal, with Hernandez lingering at the far post to get his effort in off the underside of the crossbar.
That sent matters to spot kicks, although players from both sides seemed to be somewhat shellshocked at what had already come. Perhaps that explains how both Craig Gardner and Welbeck managed to fire their sides’ first kicks over the crossbar, with Darren Fletcher finally finding the net after he had seen the night’s third attempt palmed away by De Gea.
Marcos Alonso—whose father lost a penalty shootout at the same venue while playing for Barcelona—then got his side off the mark, and it would prove to be enough to get them back on terms after Januzaj’s tentative effort was driven straight at Mannone.
Back in the game, Sunderland moved ahead as the nerveless Ki sent De Gea the wrong way. Then came the crucial moment for United, as Phil Jones did a decent impression of Welbeck before him as he sent the ball into the stands.
That gave Johnson the chance to send his side through, but De Gea guessed correctly and got enough of a hand on it to turn it away.
Rafael still had to score to force sudden death, however, and that proved beyond the young Brazilian as Mannone cemented his hero status with a brilliant save to his right.
"The feelings are for the fans," Sunderland boss Gus Poyet said afterwards, per the BBC's Henson. "It's been a difficult season, nothing to enjoy but they deserve this. The lads were immense.
"In the cups you never know what will happen. I will enjoy being underdogs [at Wembley]."
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|David De Gea||7|
|Sunderland Player Ratings|
As they are already out of the FA Cup, Manchester United's next game is against Cardiff City (at Old Trafford) next Tuesday. In the interim, they will hope to tie up the signing of Juan Mata from Chelsea.
Sunderland are still in the FA Cup, and host Kidderminster on Saturday. They then return to the Stadium of Light on Wednesday to meet Stoke City in the league.
The final of the Capital One Cup is on Sunday, March 2, 2014.
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