PATRICK van Aanholt has warned Sunderland not to be fooled by Manchester United’s losing start to the season having worked under Reds boss Louis van Gaal in the past.
Van Aanholt made his competitive debut for the Black Cats in Saturday’s 2-2 draw at West Brom following his £1.5m summer move from Chelsea.
Having come up through the ranks at Stamford Bridge, the Dutch left-back has also made his way up the international set-up having been capped at every age group from Under-16s through to the senior national side.
It was in November last year when van Aanholt was handed his first senior appearance, coming on as a late substitute in Holland’s friendly draw against Columbia under the watch of van Gaal.
The 23-year-old missed out on a place in Holland’s World Cup squad, but as he prepares to face his old manager on Sunday, van Aanholt insists Sunderland must not read too much into Manchester United’s bad start.
After last season’s disastrous displays under David Moyes, there is an air of expectancy for the Red Devils to get back into the top four this term, but things didn’t quite to go plan on the opening day when Swansea walked away from Old Trafford with three points.
“They lost the first game but it doesn’t mean that they will have no confidence,” van Aanholt said. “They had a good pre-season and they won a couple of their games.
“I know the manager very well from when he was the national team manager for Holland last season. I know how he does things and he will put a team out that wants to win and get the three points, and we need to be ready.
“He will train them hard this week to get the team ready for Sunday. I know he hates losing –everybody does so I think he will have the team ready for a fight on Sunday.”
The Black Cats came from a goal down to draw their season opener at West Brom, despite taking an early lead through Lee Cattermole.
Seb Larsson’s late strike earned Gus Poyet’s side a point at the Hawthornes and van Aanholt admits his side were perhaps lucky to come away with anything.
He said: “Obviously we went there for the three points, but in the end I think we were lucky to get a point.
“We scored a late equaliser and it was important we got something out of our first game.
“It was the first game. Anything could have happened. If we had lost it wouldn’t have been the end of the world but we got a point.
“It’s always very difficult to come back in games from 2-1 down but fortunately we did it and showed good character to get ourselves back in the game and take a point.”
Having spent the majority of his career out on loan, van Aanholt has the chance to establish himself as a first-team regular at the Stadium of Light. This summer’s World Cup in Brazil have thrown up debates surrounding the role of the full-back after several were used in a more attacking role in Brazil.
Van Aanholt sees himself as more of a old fashioned left-back, though, and insists he will focus on the defensive side of his role.
“I’ve always played left-back and I’m an established defender so that is the focus for me in games,” he said. “Anything else is a plus so it’s not really any different to what I’ve been used to before.
“I’m a defender and that’s what I will always look to do first. If you do that right then the other things will be easier, but my job is to defend and that’s what I’ll focus on more than anything.
“Everyone understands the roles the manager wants us to do. Obviously I haven’t been here for all of pre-season so I’m still getting used to the team and the players, but by playing more games with the boys you will get used to how they play. It’s still the beginning for me, but it will get easier.”
Sunderland, meanwhile, have been linked with a move for Manchester United’s Danny Welbeck.
The England international is understood to be one of several players deemed surplus to requirements at Old Trafford, while the Black Cats remain in the market to sign a striker.
Sunderland officials have more or less accepted Fabio Borini will not be returning to the Stadium of Light, while there is still huge doubt over Connor Wickham’s future on Wearside.