United’s penalty meltdown adds to Moyes woes
Manchester Utd 2 Sunderland 1 (Sunderland win 2-1 on pens AET)
Vito Mannone’s dramatic penalty shoot-out save from Rafael's sent Sunderland through to the League Cup final where they will face Manchester City at Wembley on March 2.
It was a huge blow for David Moyes and the Old Trafford faithful, a blow softened by the £37m arrival of Juan Mata.
An engaging tie had been taken to penalties after Javier Hernandez pounced in Fergie time.
Phil Bardsley, six years to the day since he left United, thought he had won it for Sunderland, but then Hernandez swept in Adnan Junuzaj's cross.
The shoot-out was so tense. Craig Gardner wasted Sunderland's first, sending his kick well over. Danny Welbeck stepped up, but was also off-target, blasting his wide.
Steven Fletcher's low strike was then pushed away by David De Gea. United fans shouted relief and joy when Darren Fletcher calmly drove his penalty in.
The pressure was now on Marcos Alonso, who curled his kick past De Gea. Januzaj placed the ball down, looked at Mannone, lifted some grass from his boot and was promptly denied by the ’keeper, who guessed right in every sense.
Ki Sung-yueng powered his penalty past De Gea, bringing Phil Jones to the spot. The England international lifted it over the bar.
Surely Adam Johnson would seal a final against his old team, but De Gea saved well.
Rafael still had to score, but Mannone saved again, causing a huge wave of emotion to come down from the 9,000 Sunderland fans.
Earlier Jonny Evans exploited rare hesitant Sunderland defending to head this tie into extra-time. The Manchester United centre-half had escaped from his marker, fellow Irishman John O'Shea, formerly of the United parish, before heading into the net.
Their mood had been lifted by news seeping through that Juan Mata was arriving from Chelsea and would be having a medical today. United had their chances to win the game during normal time. Sunderland also had their chances, with Johnson and Fabio Borini a threat, as their huge throng of support roared them on.
Evans' goal had calmed United in the first half, bringing more noise thudding through Old Trafford.
The prospect of Mata linking up with Januzaj, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie was a thrilling one for United fans, although Moyes will soon appreciate that Mata is best as a No 10, pulling the strings, operating in an area beloved by Rooney.
The playmaking Spaniard would also help Moyes to attract even more stellar talent.
Rooney and Van Persie were missing last night, not even fit enough to make the bench and how they were missed.
With United trailing from the first leg, Moyes partnered Hernandez and Welbeck in attack, although the Englishman was slightly withdrawn at times.
Shinji Kagawa drifted in from the left, soon taking up a more permanent station there with Welbeck going wide.
On the flank, Januzaj took one look at the tall Sunderland right-back Marcos Alonso, and started running at him, soon beating him for pace and then drawing a foul.
Sunderland were not sitting deep and defending in depth. They pass so much more under Gus Poyet then under Paolo di Canio.
Ki was in the centre, setting the tempo, spreading the ball wide to Borini or right to Adam Johnson. Serenaded as a “City reject,” Johnson was frequently engaged in making life uncomfortably for Alex Buttner.
One of Johnson's passes picked out Borini, who waited for the ball to drop and then sent a thumping half-volley just over David de Gea's bar. Borini was also shuttling back to help Alonso out. When Januzaj nutmegged Alonso, Borini anticipated well to cover back and block from Rafael.
With eight minutes remaining of the first half, United levelled the tie on aggregate. Januzaj released Kagawa who stood the ball up to the far post.
Darren Fletcher, United's captain, hit the post. Welbeck's follow-up effort was saved by Vito Mannone and eventually cleared for a corner. Januzaj took charge, curling the ball in.
Welbeck made good contact, athletically turning the ball into the six-yard box where Evans flicked his header unerringly past Mannone.
Evans was unmarked because he had lost O'Shea and because Sunderland's players had pushed up – all except Borini, who played Evans onside.
Relief for United was met with defiance from Sunderland. Poyet's side almost restored their aggregate lead
shortly before half-time. Johnson delivered a corner met strongly by Wes Brown, but Buttner headed clear.
Borini, formerly of Liverpool, continued to cause United problems and Chris Smalling's strong tackle brought cheers from the home fans.
United chased the second. Januzaj sent a free-kick over, Rafael shot over left-footed before Januzaj placed a low shot wide. Sunderland fought back, the lively Borini sending in a strong shot blocked by Smalling.
With Mata arriving today for his medical, Kagawa's hopes of more football look increasingly limited.
On the hour, the Japanese international was taken off by Moyes for Antonio Valencia, with Januzaj switching left.
The referee Lee Mason had been letting the game flow, but finally ran out of patience with Borini, who had just caught Evans, and booked the Sunderland attacker under a totting-up process.
Januzaj twice had chances to prevent extra-time midway through the second half.
Collecting Michael Carrick's pass, Januzaj drove the ball into the hoardings. Valencia then shrugged off Steven Fletcher's challenge on the right, before cutting inside and stroking the ball across to Januzaj.
The ball bounced slightly awkwardly, and Januzaj's shot skewed wide. United's No 44 then let fly with a shot that deflected behind. He took the corner himself, sending in a ball met by Welbeck, but Mannone saved.
After 76 minutes, Sunderland screamed for sanction to be taken against Smalling, who had grabbed Fletcher as he threatened to run past him and through on goal.
Sunderland simply channelled their frustration into more attacks. Alonso shot wide from a tight angle. Johnson brought a low save from De Gea.
United almost won the tie in normal time when Hernandez sped through, but was brought down by O'Shea. Januzaj took the free-kick, delicately dinking it over the wall, but Mannone saved, sending the game into extra-time.