Manchester United 2 Sunderland 1 (3-3 agg, SAFC win 2-1 on pens)

Published:
by Stuart Vose

Drama of the highest order as Sunderland reach Wembley.

Sunderland are off to Wembley for the Capital One Cup final after an incredible penalty shoot-out win at Old Trafford.

With the tie locked at 2-2 on aggregate thanks to Jonny Evans' first-half goal, former United man Phil Bardsley looked to have won it with a dramatic strike to make it 1-1 on the night deep into the second period of extra-time.

But Javier Hernandez netted in the final moments to set up a shoot-out, where Vito Mannone produced two huge saves to send his side into the final against Manchester City.

It was a fitting way to round off a breathless evening featuring drama of the highest order and an excellent away performance from Sunderland in front of an outstanding 9,000 travelling fans.

Gus Poyet's side stuck to their guns, rode out pressure when required and showed enormous strength of character to shrug off the blow of the late goal to prevail on penalties.

Their efforts earned a first cup final berth since 1992 and the first in this competition since 1985 – and there were incredible scenes of celebration at the end.

Ahead of the game, Poyet made two changes to the side which came back from two goals down to draw against Southampton, with Jack Colback slotting into midfield and Steven Fletcher returning up front.

Seb Larsson and Jozy Altidore stood down to the bench for the Black Cats, who were defending a one-goal lead after Fabio Borini's penalty had secured a 2-1 win in the first leg on Wearside.

Mannone was called into action within the first six minutes as United threatened – Hernandez meeting Adnan Januzaj's free-kick with a downward header only to see the Italian pull off a super reflex save to push the ball out.

But after that Sunderland settled into the game, with Ki Sung-Yueng shooting wide before John O'Shea – given a warm reception on his return to his former club – nodded off-target.

The travelling hordes almost saw their team go in front in spectacular fashion 19 minutes in, but Borini's blistering half-volley from 25 yards fizzed inches over David De Gea's crossbar with the United keeper at full stretch.

The visitors – roared on by their travelling supporters - largely kept United at bay as they probed, with Januzaj the chief protagonist down the right.

But the hosts ratcheted up the pressure and levelled the tie seven minutes before the break after Darren Fletcher had headed against the post.

A dangerous corner from Januzaj split the visiting defence and Danny Welbeck's back-to-goal flick was headed in at point-blank range by Evans.

The goal meant Sunderland had to score and they almost did so four minutes later – Wes Brown meeting Adam Johnson's corner with a strong goalbound header which was nodded clear by Alex Buttner inside the six-yard box.

Sunderland's strong response to United's goal set up an intriguing second half.

Januzaj firing a free-kick narrowly over less than a minute after the restart, while right-back Rafael cut inside to let fly with an effort from the edge of the box which just cleared Mannone's crossbar.

But Sunderland were well in the tie and the United defence had to be alert to nod behind a dangerous cross from Ki out on the right.

Johnson then crept into a good position to fire just past the base of the post when the ball rolled to him after Bardsley's driving run was ended by Buttner's challenge.

Januzaj was a constant menace on the break, and he twice fired wide either side of a blocked drive from Borini at the other end.

The youngster will have been disappointed on the second occasion, swiping across the ball and directing his shot well wide after being found wide open on the edge of the box by sub Antonio Valancia 69 minutes in.

But Sunderland, searching for that vital goal, were strong as time ticked on, with another Johnson blast deflected wide before Marcos Alonso fizzed a superb half-volley inches past the far post.

Poyet shuffled his pack in the final 10 minutes with Craig Gardner replacing Lee Cattermole before Borini made way for Altidore.

Sunderland were giving everything and were grateful to a fine intervention from Mannone with the last action of normal time – the Italian springing left to keep out a free-kick from Januzaj.

And so a topsy-turvy tie headed to extra time, with Sunderland again on the attack knowing they had to score given that United would progress on the away goals rule if the scoreline stayed the same.

Gardner's free-kick just cleared De Gea's crossbar and Bardsley fired wide inside the first minutes of the first period but the visitors were forced to leave gaps at the back as they threw men forward, with United looking to exploit the spaces.

They could have taken the lead in the 102nd minute when Januzaj slid a through ball into the path of Hernandez, but the Mexican blazed wide when one-on-one with Mannone.

Another counter-attack found Januzaj leading a three-on-one break with the visiting defence stretched, but the youngster opted to take the chance on alone and blasted wide.

It was a missed chance United would come to regret, with Bardsley threatening what was to follow as he drilled a powerful cross-shot inches wide with three minutes to go.

And, incredibly, there was drama at the last as the former United man struck against his old club with just a minute plus stoppages remaining.

Urged to shoot after receiving the ball on the edge of the box, the full-back did just that and his low drive squirmed through the grasp of De Gea and rolled, as if in slow motion, into the net.

It would have been a quite unbelievable ending to an absorbing cup tie – but the drama was to be ramped up even further.

United, on the ropes, stunned the visitors with an equaliser in the first minute of added time as Hernandez stabbed Januzaj's cross into the roof of the net to make it 2-1 on the night and 3-3 on aggregate – the only scoreline which could have produced penalties.

Nails were being bitten to the quick on both sides, and Old Trafford was in raptures when Gardner put the opening spot-kick over the bar.

But former Sunderland loanee Welbeck blazed his effort high and wide before Fletcher saw his effort turned away by De Gea low to the keeper's right.

Goalless after three penalties – but Darren Fletcher blasted home to give United the lead before Alonso responded with a cool finish to send De Gea the wrong way.

Then Mannone's heroics continued as he sprung to his right to gather Januzaj's kick, allowing Ki to show his customary cool to slot in what would be the decider.

Phil Jones' miss gave Johnson the chance to win the contest, but incredibly the winger saw De Gea save to keep United in the tie.

It didn't matter in the end, though, as Mannone secured his place in history by guessing correctly to deny Rafael and tee up Sunderland's historic Wembley date.

The keeper was immediately mobbed by his team-mates as the players celebrated in front of the travelling masses on an evening which will go down in club history.

Those 9,000 away supporters will quite simply say – I was there.

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Team Sheet

de Gea
1
Evans
6
Büttner (Evra)
28
Smalling
12
da Silva
2
Carrick (Jones)
16
Yellow Januzaj
44
Welbeck
19
Kagawa (Valencia)
26
Fletcher
24
Hernández
14
Mannone
25
Alonso Yellow
28
Brown
5
O'Shea Yellow
16
Bardsley
2
Colback
14
Ki
4
Johnson
11
Cattermole (Gardner)
33
Borini (Altidore) Yellow
31
Fletcher
9

Substitutes

Evra
3
Lindegaard
13
Giggs
11
Valencia
25
Yellow Jones
4
Young
18
Cleverley
23
Larsson
7
Celustka
12
Ustari
32
Gardner Yellow
8
Giaccherini
23
Vergini
27
Altidore
17