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'Typical Sunderland' Never Tasted So Sweet

A little reflection from a memorable night of cup football for Sunderland.

Clive Mason

Where on earth do you start? That's not just some designed opening here, I genuinely don't know.

That's not an unfamiliar feeling for us here at Roker Report either. We cover Sunderland every single day and yet 99% of the time we don't know what to expect from this utterly inexplicable football club.

When Jonny Evans put Manchester United ahead at Old Trafford, no one was still any the wiser as to who was going to Wembley. Right up to the last kick of normal time, no one knew. When Phil Bardsley put someone ahead, no one knew, and when Javier Hernandez equalised, no one knew.

Even the ensuing penalty shootout itself was a microcosm of the mystery. First Sunderland looked to have thrown it away by missing the first two penalties. Then United looked to have handed it back by missing numbers three and four. Adam Johnson appeared to have dropped it.

Right up until literally the last pre-scheduled kick of this two-legged cup tie that went beyond extra time, you didn't know what Sunderland were going to do and achieve. They took you around the houses then took a sharp left into Loonysville at the last possible second. Sunderland AFC, through and through, but never had it tasted so good.

I mean, if we're honest, Sunderland doing all the hard work, getting themselves in a great position and then throwing it all away is pretty much our raison d'etre. Some clubs win stuff. Some clubs just exist. Us? We strive on unsure footing and slip and slide into a whirlwind of whimsy, and we never know where we will land when we are thrown free of it.

However, whilst it was unmistakably 'typical Sunderland', it would be unfair to attempt to reduce the events at Old Trafford to that alone. It was madness, yes, but it was underpinned by some very astute tactical planning by Gus Poyet and some fine execution by some good footballers who are starting to show a huge amount of character on a pretty regular basis.

It's always tough to know how to approach these kinds of games. The temptation was, I'm sure, to chase an early goal and attempt to put the tie to bed. Had Sunderland grabbed the first goal and done so early, it may well have finished this new fragile Manchester United off.

But opening the game up would have carried far too great a risk. Instead, being within one goal of winning - not saving - it in the dying stages was vital. The crowd became nervy. That, and the incredible and relentless backing from the away support, fueled Sunderland's confidence. United withdrew. The crucial error was made.

We don't get many occasions like this. It was, in essence, a night of perfect unity. The manager, the fans, the players and even Lady Luck created the perfect Sunderland storm. It was an unstoppable force of nature rather than the usual hap-hazard whirlwind.

It's good to be a Sunderland fan today. Make sure you savour it.

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