The script for an all-Manchester League Cup final was torn up by relegation-threatened Sunderland, who giant-killed Manchester United after a penalty shoot-out had to separate the two sides due to a 3-3 aggregate scoreline, with the Black Cats progressing into the competition's climax where they meet tournament favourites Manchester City.
The story of United's season was reflected in the manner in which they struck their penalties. Out of the five attempts, only one - from captain Darren Fletcher - was converted, one was saved by opposition goalkeeper Vito Mannone while three were rugby-ed over the crossbar.
There was a distinct lack of confidence in the spot-kick attempts and David Moyes looked on, helpless, like a man defeated.
The reaction by United fans on social media has not been one of dejection or depression, though, as the imminent signing of Juan Mata, from Chelsea, has no doubt provided sunshine on an otherwise overcast week, as most supporters seemed to claim that it was never a cup that Sir Alex Ferguson took seriously and that current manager Moyes can now fully focus on securing a spot within the top four of the Premier League.
One supporter, TV presenter Eamonn Holmes, was cheered up by the prospect of Mata, but labeled the Old Trafford display as a 'horror show'.
Still a good day for united in my opinion mata is far more valuable than the league cup fergie only ever played the reserves— Amazing-Man I (@RyantheLION97) January 22, 2014
Only league cup reds its not like were out of champions league #keepredflagflying— Danny Hingley (@Dan_United_87) January 22, 2014
Don't even know what to say about United. Suppose it's only the league cup... It doesn't really mata.— Scotty (@ScoutRedfern) January 22, 2014
United didn't win fa cup in last 10 years or league cup since 2010 all under Ferguson. people getting carried away . again.— Brian O Halloran (@brianoh91) January 22, 2014
Last night doesn't change Moyes situation any more. The league Cup isn't high on United's list anyway. Fergie said it was a bonus aswell— Gareth Lawrence (@gazzarinie) January 23, 2014
Quote of the day from a united fan at work... "I'm not bothered about the league cup or FA Cup, now we can concentrate on getting top 4"— Ashley Boucher (@Tricky_Dicky_) January 23, 2014
Another Horror show at Old T..... but the Cavalry is on the way. Mata in the bag. At least it's a start.— Eamonn Holmes (@EamonnHolmes) January 22, 2014
image: © marcel sigg