8:00am Tuesday 15th May 2012
By Paul Fraser
SIMON MIGNOLET'S reputation reached new heights after his wonder-save from Ryan Giggs' thunderbolt on Sunday, but the Belgium shot-stopper thinks he has a long way to go before he can be regarded as one of the very best.
By bringing the curtain down on his second full season at the Stadium of Light with an outstanding display to frustrate Manchester United in their pursuit of the Premier League title, Mignolet was in the spotlight for his heroics. His spectacular flying stop to tip over Giggs' rocket capped off a fine display.
After diving low to his right to try to meet Paul Scholes' initial strike which bounced off the foot of the post, Mignolet somehow picked himself up, charged left and jumped high to divert Giggs' drive high over the crossbar.
The save might not have prevented United from winning at the Stadium of Light, but did provide a reminder of his quality in a week when Craig Gordon's incredible stop against Bolton in 2010 was voted the Premier League's greatest ever save.
An indication of Mignolet's rise to prominence during the last couple of years is further highlighted by the likelihood Gordon will be moving on this summer when his contract expires.
But the young international, who is still only 23, insists he does not consider himself to be one of the finest goalkeepers in the Premier League - yet.
Mignolet said: "It's way too early for me to say that I have shown people in England that I'm a top goalkeeper. I learn new things in every game and in every day's training.
"I have had so many great experiences and if I do make a mistake then I'm always determined to get better - that's the most important thing.
"I have played 50-odd Premier League games, but even after that number you can't say you're established. There is a lot more to come from me. I will continue to work hard and we'll see what happens in the end."
And, modestly, the £2m signing from St Truiden, who has become the Belgium No 1 in the last 12 months, was not prepared to overplay his wondersave from Giggs.
He said: "I was lucky. You have to be lucky as a goalkeeper when you are playing Manchester United. That's what I'm there for. I am in the team to make saves so I don't want to give myself a pat on the back.
"When you have lost the game, it's hard to do that. Sometimes a save looks more spectacular than the other ones, but the most important thing for me is that we lost."
Ending the campaign with a defeat to Manchester United - however dramatic it was in terms of the title picture with Manchester City - meant Sunderland's winless run extended to nine matches.
It was also a result suffered without the influence of loan striker Nicklas Bendtner. The Denmark striker was completely overlooked for the match-day 16 and he will not be returning to the Stadium of Light following the end of his stint from Arsenal.
It has emerged the reason Bendtner was not involved was because he angered manager Martin O'Neill by missing the team coach when the players met at a hotel in Durham before taking on United.
In the end the Euro 2012-bound striker had to get in a taxi and make the journey to the ground himself, only to find O'Neill had already decided to leave him out of the squad.
The Sunderland boss will now spend the summer trying to make sure he has suitable candidates lined up to replace Bendtner in the Sunderland attack. He is hoping to make quick progress on the transfer front.
Mignolet, knowing goalkeeper is not an area of the team that will be strengthened, said: "The main thing for me is that we lost the game to Manchester United. That's really not something you want to do in the last home match of the season.
"We had a big home crowd and we wanted to finish on a high. That was so important for us. I know it was a big day for Manchester United who really wanted to win for obvious reasons, but so did we."
Sunderland defender John O'Shea, meanwhile, will meet up with the Republic of Ireland squad as planned, erasing fears he could miss Euro 2012.
O'Shea underwent a scan on an ankle problem which forced him off on Sunday and O'Neill felt the complaint was significant enough to raise doubts about his appearance for the Irish.
However, the 31-year-old is still expected to meet up with the Ireland squad in Malahide on Sunday, three days after James McClean is due to travel out.
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