A catcher not a puncher, a passer not a punter – Vito Mannone has impressed after finally being given his chance as a first-choice goalkeeper.
The Italian spent eight years at Arsenal without ever threatening to solve the goalkeeping question which hung almost permanently over them.
Loan spells at Barnsley and Hull City were his only real chance to show what he could do.
Even when he moved to Sunderland last summer, he found himself backing up Keiren Westwood – but since the former Carlisle United man took a kick to the head at Hull Mannone has impressed to such an extent Manchester United are rumoured to be taking a look.
Sunderland’s greatest goalkeeper Jimmy Montgomery regards him as one of the success stories of their season.
“Vito has done tremendously well,” said the Wearsiders’ record appearance-maker. “Since he arrived he has been a real plus point this season.”
Wednesday’s display at Old Trafford, saving from Adnan Januzaj and Rafael da Silva in a League Cup semi-final penalty shoot-out, only brought Mannone’s talents to a wider audience.
They have earned him a rest this afternoon, January signing Oscar Ustari making his debut instead at home to Kidderminster Harriers in the FA Cup.
However, watching his new team at Old Trafford, the experienced Argentinian will have realised the job he has on his hands to displace Mannone.
Montgomery added: “He deserved that performance and that penalty save.
“He was very, very confident throughout the game, his handling was great, his distribution has been spot on ever since he arrived.
“What I like to see in a goalkeeper in a Sunderland shirt is the fact he actually catches the ball rather than punches or palms it out and Vito does that.
“All credit to the lad because he deserves all of the accolades he gets for that performance at Old Trafford. Hopefully, he can do it again at Wembley!”
Importantly for a team which plays the pure style of football coach Gustavo Poyet is so fond of, Mannone has impressed right-back Phil Bardsley with his football as much as his glovework.
The former Manchester United defender said: “I don’t think Vito has received the plaudits he’s deserved since he’s been here. It was sensational goalkeeping on Wednesday.
“He’s a top goalkeeper – his distribution and his shot-stopping are superb.
“He’s come from a team like Arsenal and adapted fantastically well.
“His distribution has been one of the key things of our game under the new manager. We’re trying to play out from the back and he’s a big part of that.”