EVEN NOW, a month on, the words catch in Vito Mannone’s throat.
As the Italian goalkeeper tries to describe his emotions after saving Rafael’s penalty, those flashbacks kick-in.
The mob of team-mates racing towards him with ecstasy plastered over their faces.
The 9,000 Sunderland fans behind him propelled into utter delirium.
And the impromptu singing session back in the dressing room.
Even the long wait to undergo drug testing afterwards couldn’t take the shine off that Wednesday night at Old Trafford.
Those heroics in the Capital One Cup semi-final second leg penalty shoot-out still loom large in Mannone’s mind ahead of today’s final.
The summer signing just hopes it provides the platform for Sunderland to lift the League Cup for the first time in their history.
“It was something amazing, you can’t describe it in words,” said Mannone.
“These things happen and then you can’t repeat it really.
“You can only watch the video and enjoy. It gives you goosebumps.
“It was something you always dream about as a kid that your team comes to you in that way and you have 9,000 crazy fans singing your name.
“Then you go in the dressing room and have all your team-mates singing your name too.
“All the fans will remember that moment because it felt like a final, with the way we went through with unbelievable up and downs.
“It was incredible.
“We had some amazing games before that semi-final. That moment was just a small one in an amazing run.
“Thankfully, I could give some help to my team and team-mates, so we could go through. Now it’s down to us. It’s one game and we will enjoy it.”
Should Mannone again prove to be Sunderland’s hero against Manchester City at Wembley this weekend, it will cap a remarkable journey for the stopper, who turns 26 tomorrow.
After Sunderland splashed out £2million on Arsenal’s third-choice keeper during the summer, question marks were raised over Mannone’s capabilities at the highest level. But after Keiren Westwood’s season came to an end with a shoulder injury in November, Mannone has grasped his opportunity impeccably.
“I just think I was waiting for my chance and it would have come anyway, that’s nothing against Keiren. It was down to me,” said Mannone.
“We had many games to play so at one point my chance would have come.
“It came that way and I needed to be ready for our new gaffer.
“I started to show him in training as much as I could and then the chance came and I took it. It’s down to being focused and being ready for the time.”
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