SUNDERLAND head coach Gus Poyet has warned his players not to live on their previous results against Manchester United when Louis van Gaal’s side visit the Stadium of Light tomorrow.
Poyet’s men overcame the Red Devils on three occasions last season, beating them over two legs in the Capital One Cup semi-final before winning at Old Trafford in the Premier League in May.
Things have changed since then with former Holland boss Louis van Gaal handed the job of turning the club’s fortunes around after their disastrous spell under David Moyes.
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However, the Dutchman’s reign didn’t get off to the best of starts last weekend when Swansea City left Old Trafford with three points, and he is without several first-team players for the trip to Wearside.
New £16m signing Marcos Rojo isn’t available because he is yet to receive a work permit, while Ander Herrera, Marouane Fellaini, Luke Shaw, Michael Carrick and Jesse Lingaard are all out.
But while his side go into the game having had the better of Manchester United recently, Poyet has warned his players not to read too much into the past.
“I don’t think about it that way,” Poyet said. “But everyone is talking about that. When you cannot beat a team, everybody says ‘we cannot beat them, we need to change that’.
“They keep talking about ‘we cannot’ and ‘we need to change that’. Now we’ve done it, we need to watch for over confidence.
“We need to manage that. Without any doubt it’s a different feeling. I think it’s a better feeling, we like to go and play them with that feeling.
“I went to Old Trafford with Chelsea a couple of times really confident that we’d have a chance, I don’t think we lost to them but then I went there with Tottenham and we couldn’t win in the past and we didn’t win.
“That helps you as a team. If we have got that mentality in the team, I am sure it is going to help. In football now, the difference between the teams is nothing. It could just be a decision from the referee, but that shows we are in good shape, at least mentally, and that’s a good thing.”
One thing Poyet expects tomorrow is a tactical battle with van Gaal, who has already adopted his preferred 3-5-2 formation at Old Trafford, and the Black Cats head coach admits the Dutchman is capable of springing a surprise or two.
Poyet said: “He’s very intelligent and he knows the game. Depending how the game goes, he is going to make a move.
“I need to be ready and to know what he is trying. It is like a little game between us. Some managers will just change a right-back for a right-back, or a left winger for a left winger.
“The only thing that changes is the characteristic of the player, but the game is the same. A manager like Van Gaal can change the system, maybe he knows something that we’re not expecting. He could do something that we need to be ready to cope with.
“There are lots of managers I look up to, for different reasons. I like him because he believes in himself and his way of working. I like other managers because they are good on the defensive side, and others for the football they play or their mentality. You try to learn a little bit from them.”
Poyet is expected to name a largely unchanged team at the Stadium of Light with Jack Rodwell alongside Seb Larsson in midfield.
The £10m signing from Manchester City endured a mixed debut against West Brom before being taken off in the 68th minute, and the Uruguayan admits he is mindful not to push the midfielder too hard given his injury history.
“In the first half in West Brom, we didn’t help him [Rodwell],” Poyet admitted. “The game we played was terrible. He couldn’t get into the game. I think everybody reacted in the second half and he was much better.
“I took him off when he was starting to influence the game, you can blame me. It’s another thing we need to look at. We are playing Sunday, Wednesday, and Saturday. Whatever decision I make, some people are not going to be happy, depending on the outcome.
“If we win and nothing happens, it will be fantastic. If Jack gets injured, it will be my responsibility. If I don’t play him and we lose, I will be terrible.
“It is a decision I need to make and I am responsible for good or for bad. I need to manage with him – but me in particular, I need to manage how long he can play and how know it is important not to force him too much, but that will depend on the game and how he is playing.”
Sunderland midfielder Alfred N’Diaye has joined Real Betis is a deal worth £1.5m. The Senegal international has signed a five-year deal following a loan spell at the club last season.