David Moyes criticised his Manchester United players for their performance and subsequent missing of four of five penalties in a "terrible" 2-1 shootout defeat that allowed Sunderland to progress to the Capital One Cup final on 2 March.
While United won the semi-final second leg at Old Trafford 2-1, being knocked out of the competition was a fifth reverse in six outings. With Chelsea's Juan Mata set to join United in a £40m transfer, Moyes will hope the Spaniard will be the catalyst to turn the champions' dismal season around.
United trailed 2-1 from the first leg but were heading to Wembley on the away goals rule as the end of extra-time approached due to Jonny Evans's first-half finish. But after David de Gea's blunder allowed Phil Bardsley's 119th-minute shot to slip in, Javier Hernández grabbed a lifeline with a strike seconds later to take the tie into the shootout.
But only Darren Fletcher scored for United from the spot, with Danny Welbeck, Adnan Januzaj, Phil Jones and Rafael da Silva missing, and the successes of Marcos Alonso and Ki Sung-yueng were enough to send Gus Poyet's team to Wembley to face Manchester City.
Moyes said: "We hadn't played well enough tonight to merit going through, but we were getting through, we had defended well enough to see the game out. It changed and credit to the lads for getting the goal [from Hernández] to get us back in the game, but we didn't play well enough and Sunderland came and deservedly got themselves in the final.
"The bigger disappointment was how we played. Of course, you would expect a better standard because, don't forget, there are a lot of internationals out there. We wanted to score a second goal and had quite a few opportunities to score it.
"In the end, I just don't think we got the level of performance we needed to go through the game. If we had got through, I would have been disappointed with the performance, but I'm doubly disappointed that we haven't got to the final. But it went to penalties and our penalties were terrible." Moyes defended De Gea and admitted those who took penalties would not have been his first choices.
"David has been very good this season and the players got him out of a hole to get back in the game. Ideally it probably wouldn't have been the group of players at the end that we had out that we would have chosen. Chicharito [Hernández, who was injured] would have probably taken a penalty and people like Michael Carrick would have been involved had he still been on the pitch. But the job is to do it. It's the same for both teams, but we didn't execute them well enough. Our keeper did his bit but we didn't execute our penalties well enough."
Vito Mannone, the Sunderland goalkeeper, was received as a hero by his team-mates. "In the dressing room everyone started singing his name, it was a special moment, he was half happy, half embarrassed," said Poyet. "The players were asking [to take] the penalties, there was a fight between Bardsley and Ki to take the fourth – you don't see that often."