MICHAEL Carrick praised Sam Greenwood for the way he dealt with the emotions of his Sunderland return - and believes the best is still to come from the promising Leeds United loanee.

On his first return to the Stadium of Light since leaving Sunderland for Arsenal when he was just 16 and with his family and friends in the crowd, Greenwood's goal set Boro on their way to a memorable 4-0 victory after his former teammate Dan Neil was sent off.

The forward admitted it was "weird" being back at the Stadium of Light and playing against the club where he came through the ranks, but he dealt with the occasion superbly.

Carrick said: "It’s not an easy one for Sam, and I was conscious of that coming into the game. We know his background and with his family and friends being Sunderland fans, and that was the first time he’s played here as well.

"He’s also still finding his feet for us, but I have faith and trust in him, and knew what he was capable of. He was terrific and I was really pleased with him. It will be a big one for him as well, to get his first goal in a big game like this. And for the performance he gave, it should definitely be a massive boost for him moving forward."

Greenwood was playing catch-up with his fitness when he joined Boro having suffered an injury in the summer with Leeds, so Carrick knew patience would be needed. But on the evidence of the last week and performances against Cardiff and Sunderland, the 21-year-old is now fully fit and firing.

Carrick said:  "When he first came in he was a little bit frustrated, but I think now he realises it does take a little time to get that sharpness, and we spoke to him throughout that time about being patient. We were patient with him. Now, I think we’re definitely seeing that it’s starting to come for him, and I think that’s showed in the last two games."


Another Boro forward finding form is Isaiah Jones, who enjoyed his best performance of Carrick's tenure at Sunderland. The winger enjoyed a brilliant breakthough two seasons ago but dealt with a range of off the field issues last term, which he bravely spoke about in the summer. 

He's now in a good place off the pitch and shining again on it.

The head coach said: "Izzy was bright all day (at Sunderland). He's enjoying his football which is great to see. He’s in a good place.

"He’s looking sharp and dangerous and putting in a shift defensively for us as well. His intensity has been excellent. He makes the team a lot stronger when he plays like that and he’s doing really well. It’s great to see."