BIRTHDAY BOY Vito Mannone has been practising penalties in case he is called upon to be Sunderland’s Capital One Cup shoot-out hero again.
The £2million summer signing sent 9,000 Sunderland fans inside Old Trafford into delirium in the semi-final second leg after saving two of Manchester United’s five spot-kicks.
Sunderland have spent time on the training ground this week trying to prepare themselves for the possibility of tomorrow’s final going to penalties too and Mannone hopes that can give the Black Cats the edge, if the Wembley showdown goes to sudden-death.
“Of course I’ve been practising penalties!” said the Italian.
“You try to have some competition with the other players.
“We have 25 members of the squad and they’re all taking one. That’s good for the goalkeepers in training!
“Obviously, you can train as much as you want, but a penalty for a keeper is something you can only train a little bit for.
“On the day, it’s something you need to read and look at the player in front. It’s like a lottery really.”
Mannone turns 26 tomorrow and will mark his birthday with a first appearance at Wembley.
The Italian’s experiences of cup finals as a youngster were watching AC Milan, as they enjoyed success both domestically and in Europe.
And Mannone says one of his clearest memories of the Rossoneri is the 2003 Champions League final against Juventus, when Brazilian keeper Dida was their penalty shoot-out hero - ironically at the same end of Old Trafford where Mannone proved to be Sunderland’s saviour in the semi-final.
“I watched a lot of AC Milan when I was younger because my dad was a fan,” said the former Arsenal man.
“They had a few finals in the Champions League, but the one I can remember the most is quite funny.
“I watched Dida saving the penalty in that goal at Old Trafford against Juventus. Maybe it was destiny we won at Old Trafford on penalties!”
He added: “Winning the final is something I want to achieve for my career. It stays in history.
“I’ve got a great chance and it’s something I’ve always dreamed about.
“When you are a kid, you look at people lifting the cups and it’s really emotional. You want to be in there.
“Each one of us always watched the TV and thought ‘I want to be a winner and lift the cup’. We will all be thinking that tomorrow.
“Hopefully the final being on my birthday will be a good thing and I will have a good present at the end of the game!”
H Check out Monday’s Sunderland Echo for extensive coverage of the Capital One Cup Final.