GUS POYET will give his Old Trafford heroes a break this weekend but has challenged Sunderland’s FA Cup team to prove they can push the club further towards an unlikely treble.
Summer recruit Emanuele Giaccherini will be one of wholesale changes from the Black Cats team which started the Capital One Cup semi-final victory over Manchester United when non-league Kidderminster travel to Wearside.
Despite seeing Sunderland secure a place at Wembley on Sunday, March 2 against Manchester City, head coach Gus Poyet wants to see the impressive cup form continue this weekend.
By defeating Kidderminster, Sunderland would also be sitting well placed in the fifth round of another cup competition – and he thinks that could also give a huge boost to his side’s chances of staying in the Premier League.
The battle to preserve top-flight status is far from won and the strains on the fixture list could bring its own problems in the months ahead.
But Poyet wants to see evidence that having cup ties like this afternoon’s at the Stadium of Light will provide an opportunity for some of his fringe players to regain their own form and prove they deserve a place in his starting line-up more regularly.
"I'd like a FA Cup run,” said Poyet. “But on Saturday I just want the players to do well for themselves and for the fans, and to win the game. Then we'll see.
“You can't plan a run because you don't know who you might play next and with the games we'll have before or after.
“A treble of two cups and staying up? I'm not even thinking about it. It's very dangerous to think about that. If we think too much about the final, you can pay the price in the league. It depends on our consistency. Is the squad good enough for the 'treble'? I'll tell you after tomorrow.”
As well as handing debuts to goalkeeper Oscar Ustari and centre-back Santiago Vergini today, Poyet will also throw in a number of other familiar faces.
Despite progressing beyond Manchester United in midweek on penalties, the former Brighton boss is keen to see greater creativity going forward as he tries to form a squad capable of climbing out of the Premier League’s bottom three by May.
"People are playing for the possibility of being involved in the first team,” said Poyet. “Can you go and break down Kidderminster and really go and create something? If you can't do that, how are you going to do it against Man City in a month's time?
"The ones that get their chance need to be aware of that. It will depend on how good we are in the last third, and that's something we're looking hard at as well.
"If people go in with the wrong mentality against Kidderminster. They're in danger of not being part of the main group, week in, week out. That's the mentality we're trying to create.”
One of the players Poyet will be examining closely is Giaccherini. The 28-year-old has been in and out of the team because he does not necessarily suit the system adopted by Sunderland.
The Italian international, who hopes to go to the World Cup, will line-up in the middle of a four-man midfield behind the lone striker today.
Poyet said: "He's a special case. He prefers to play as one of the two central midfielders, in my formation, and I thought he was more of a wide player coming in.
“But he prefers to play in the middle. He played there all of the time in Italy. He's going to have a chance to play in the middle.
"I like him and I want him here. He's always positive, whether he's playing or not playing. He trains hard and I love the mentality they bring from Italy. They want to do extra work and extra running and he always wants to do a little bit more with the fitness coach.
"We had a great chat the other day and I made the position clear. It's a bit like Fabio Borini, he deserved to play when I first came in but he didn't. That was down to me, not him.”
With Sunderland pursuing a number of new recruits on the transfer front, Poyet knows he could also be just a phone call away from selling a couple of his players.
Midfielder Lee Cattermole is one of those, with Stoke City keen to agree a £5m deal for the former Middlesbrough man. Potters boss Mark Hughes suggested yesterday that the cup final in five weeks might make it harder to land the Stockton-born former skipper.
Poyet insisted there had been no offers for Cattermole, although it could be that such a move gathers pace after the two clubs have met on Wednesday and before next Friday’s transfer deadline.
The Sunderland boss, who also revealed youngster Duncan Watmore will be involved today, said: “Nobody's for sale. I'm going to correct that, everybody's got a price but we don't want to lose anyone.
“I think Catts’ got a much bigger role to play than people thought when I first came in and we started playing the football we tried to. I'm pleased for him because he's adapted very well.”