Vito Mannone delivers for Sunderland - showing all the youthful promise spotted by Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger

The Italian played a crucial role in the Black Cats beating Manchester United to reach the Capital One cup final

Everyone knows about Birmingham City’s pyrrhic victory, about the team who won the League Cup in 2011 and paid for it with their Premier League status, which they are yet to regain. Sunderland players and fans will grow sick of those warnings over the next few weeks, but for now they can take great pride in their achievement of reaching Wembley and recent performances that suggest they can compete on more than one front.

Even though Sunderland remain in the relegation zone, they do have some momentum behind them. Beyond the famous League Cup victories over Chelsea and now Manchester United, their league form is improving too, with just one defeat in their last seven games.

Few players better encapsulate this commitment and improvement than Vito Mannone, the 25-year-old Italian goalkeeper and one of the heroes of Wednesday night’s penalty triumph over United. Mannone has been one of the better performers of the Gus Poyet era so far, displacing Keiren Westwood in goal in November and keeping hold of the position ever since.

Twice in his career – in the autumns of 2009 and 2012 – he has enjoyed a brief run in the Arsenal team, only to lose his place when more experienced goalkeepers returned to form or fitness. Twice he has gone on loan to Hull City. But only now, with Sunderland, under Poyet, is he finding his feet as a top-flight goalkeeper.

Was it really that bad? See for yourself in pictures

Mannone joined on a two-year deal from Arsenal in the summer and Arsène Wenger, who signed him from Atalanta nearly 10 years ago, was delighted yesterday to see him flourish at the highest level.

“I am very happy because it reminded me of when I saw him that I kept him here when he was 16 years of age and [gave him] a trial with the first team,” Wenger said. “I saw at that time that there was something special in him and it’s coming out now.”

The worst penalty shoot-out ever? Penalty-by-penalty analysis of Sunderland's Capital One Cup victory over Manchester United  

Poyet, unsurprisingly, was thrilled with the contribution of his chosen keeper, who saved spot-kicks from Adnan Januzaj and Rafael da Silva in the 2-1 shoot-out victory at Old Trafford.

“How did we do it? I think we need to ask Vito Mannone,” Poyet said. “I think he can personally answer that because he has been getting better and better and he was probably the difference between the two teams.”

Manchester United 2 Sunderland 1: Gus Poyet hails shootout hero Vito Mannone after dramatic victory sends Black Cats to Wembley

Mannone, a popular character wherever he has been, was warmly acclaimed by his team-mates for delivering them to Wembley. “When Vito got into the dressing room, the whole squad and staff started singing his name and there is no better feeling for a football player,” Poyet revealed. “He was half happy, half embarrassed. It was a special night for him.”

Or watch the video of the shoot-out below:

News
Food blogger and Guardian writer Jack Monroe with her young son
people
News
people
News
peopleSinger tells The Independent what life is like in rehab in an exclusive video interview
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years - but he says it wasn’t all fun and games...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Sport
Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
footballManchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2: Argentine's late hat-rick sees home side snatch vital victory
News
Muhammad Ali pictured in better health in 2006
peopleBut he has enjoyed publicity from his alleged near-death experience
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
TV
News
The assumption that women are not as competent in leadership positions as men are leads to increased stress in the workplace
science... and it's down to gender stereotypes
Life and Style
The racy marketing to entice consumers to buy Fairlife, which launches in the US next month
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Inner sanctum: Tove Jansson and friends in her studio in 1992
booksWhat was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital