Spot-kick slapstick: Man Utd humiliated by Sunderland
United's season plumbs agonising new depths as they lose League Cup semi final on penalties
Manchester United 2 Sunderland 1 [3-3 on aggregate, Sunderland win 2-1 on penalties]. Manchester United's season went from bad to disastrous on Wednesday night as they tumbled out of the League Cup semi-final in farcical fashion after one of the most inept penalty shootouts ever witnessed. Manager David Moyes admitted his side had been "terrible" in the second-leg clash at Old Trafford as Sunderland booked their place at Wembley against Manchester City on March 2.
The Sky Blues are unlikely to be quaking in their boots after watching the climax to this strange encounter. After Jonny Evans had put United one up on 37 minutes (and levelled the aggregate scores), the game went into extra time and it was there that the drama began.
United simply needed to hold on to win 1-0 and go through on away goals. But with two minutes remaining Phil Bardsley struck a speculative shot from five yards outside the area, Sunderland's first effort on target all evening. It should have been a regulation save for David De Gea but the Spaniard let it slip through his fingers and into the net.
The Black Cats' 9,000-strong supporters went wild, convinced they were heading to Wembley for the first time in 22 years. But back came United with just seconds of extra time to spare, Adnan Januzaj threading the ball through for Javier Hernandez, who fired past Vito Manonne to take the tie to a penalties.
But the shootout turned to slapstick as one after another the players put the ball anywhere but in the net. Only three of the ten spot kicks were successful with Danny Welbeck, Januzaj, Phil Jones and Rafael all missing for United. Darren Fletcher did manage to score, but so did Marcos Alonso and Ki Sung-Yueng for Sunderland.
David Moyes was left stunned by the spectacle, telling reporters: "We didn't play well enough to merit going through. Sunderland came here and deservedly got themselves in the final."
Admitting that the penalty shootout had been a disaster, the United manager said the game should have never reached that stage. "The bigger disappointment was how we played. Of course you would expect a better standard because, don't forget, there were a lot of internationals out there." As for De Gea's gaffe, Moyes said it was "a costly one... but that happens in football."
Sunderland boss Gus Poyet dedicated the win to the club's fans, a long-suffering bunch who have had little to cheer in recent times. "It's been a difficult season, nothing to enjoy," said Poyet. "They deserve that, so let's see if we can go one better and win the final as well."
But does Poyet really believe the Black Cats can beat the Sky Blues on March 2? "Of course we can, why not? It will be an incredible task, [and we must] hope they have a bad day and we take our chances." ·