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:

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...