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

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders