London – Manchester United's Darren Fletcher came to the defence of David de Gea after the goalkeeeper's extraordinary error led to the club's shock League Cup semi-final defeat by Sunderland.
United, in a difficult first season under manager David Moyes, were minutes away from a morale-boosting Wembley final appearance against Manchester City when De Gea let a weak shot from United old boy Phil Bardsley somehow slip through hos fingers at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
Although United's Javier Hernandez scored quickly to send the two-legged tie to penalties, it was Sunderland who emerged triumphant in the shoot-out, with Fletcher the only member of the home side to score in five attempts from the spot.
De Gea's error could hardly have come at a worse time for the English champions, already out of the FA Cup and 14 points behind league leaders Arsenal.
However, Scotland midfielder Fletcher told MUTV, the club's in-house television station: “David will be fine.
“He has been fantastic for us. There has not been a better goalkeeper around for the last 18 months.
“He has been one of the most positive things about this season. “He is disappointed but all goalkeepers make mistakes and he will show what a top goalkeeper he is.”
Alhough de Gea did save a penalty from Adam Johnson in the shoot-out, he could do nothing about the failure of United's Danny Welbeck, Adnan Januzaj, Phil Jones and Rafael to hit the target from 12 yards.
“Penalties are a lottery but we should still be disappointed with our execution of them,” said Fletcher.
“We had the momentum going into the penalties but it didn't pan out the way I thought.
“At Old Trafford, to only score one is disappointing, there is no denying that.” – Sapa-AFP