Manchester United were denied a place at Wembley in the Capital One Cup final in the cruellest fashion via a penalty shoot-out against Sunderland after an evening of drama and, ultimately, disappointment at Old Trafford.
Having initially led 1-0 through Jonny Evans' 37th-minute header, the tie went to extra time with the scores locked at 2-2. Just as the Reds seemed to be heading through on away goals, Phil Bardsley struck in the last minute of the added 30. But that wasn't the end of it, somehow United came back and Javier Hernandez equalised to take it to spot-kicks, where this game's plot had another wicked twist.
United's first-half lead was deserved through perseverance. Hernandez was first to test Sunderland goalkeeper Vito Mannone, while Darren Fletcher hit a post and Danny Welbeck had a shot blocked from five yards out. Fabio Borini threatened at the other end with a 30-yard effort, but the Reds went in front when Welbeck flicked on Adnan Januzaj's corner on 37 minutes and Evans headed home.
After the break Rafael and Januzaj went close with left-footed shots but Sunderland also went on the attack, with Marcos Alonso going closest for the visitors with a drilled volley past the post on 79 minutes. Neither side could find the crucial goal to win it inside 90 minutes, so extra time beckoned, and after 102 minutes Chicharito had a glorious chance to clinch victory but he fired wide when one-on-one with Mannone.
At the other end, Bardsley lined up a speculative low effort in the last minute of extra time and De Gea spilled the shot, directing it into his own net. Yet so soon after that pang of disappointment and United felt momentarily euphoric as Chicharito turned the ball home from close range with 120 minutes up, levelling the scores once again. That meant a shoot-out from 12 yards, and Sunderland held their nerve to win 2-1.