Analysis: Gus Poyet methods in Capital One Cup success give Sunderland stomach for Premier League survival battle

Under former manager Paolo Di Canio, Lee Cattermole was lost – a totem of the the Italian’s dislocated relationship with his players

Old Trafford

The primary objective seemed to be evident from the minute Fabio Borini thumped into Adnan Januzaj and upended him. Stop the prime property. You could certainly see the logic to that.

The jewel in Manchester United’s crown looked capable of wreaking destruction, for all the Wearside attempts to crush him. When Marcos Alonso had his own go at rough-housing him, Januzaj just nutmegged the Spaniard, and by the time the game had settled into a rhythm, Borini and Lee Cattermole could do no more than just watch him play around them.

Yet there was more to Sunderland than all that here. They fell behind in a dismal manner, Borini neglecting to remember that rather elementary aspect about stepping up with the defenders to play the opposition offside. Yet they were neither daunted not defeatist. They passed the ball like a side who have rediscovered a desire to receive and give it. Gus Poyet’s was the more balanced team and comfortably the more creative.

Alonso, Borini, and Cattermole navigated angular passes in front of their defence, seemed to feel no panic and in the stature of the latter of those three revealed the extraordinary difference that a manager who motivates can bring.

 

Under Paolo di Canio, Cattermole was lost on Wearside – a totem of the Italian’s dislocated relationship with his players; despised by the management and reduced to playing with the kids by the end. Under Poyet he is the player that Steve Bruce knew he could be when he can exercise some self-control.

He patrolled the deep areas, gesturing, demanding, snapping a tackle at Javier Hernandez, exhorting Jack Colback to press forward and press Rafael da Silva in his own defensive territory.

The surprise was that Adam Johnson – who has contributed to or finished nine of Gus Poyet’s team’s last 11matches – was not equipped with the ball more often, because  Johnson against Alex Buttner looked like an uneven  contest.

The Englishman displayed the quality of a player in a supreme flush of form on 34 minutes, when he clipped a 30-yard pass which Borini took on the half volley and fired powerfully just wide after easing past Rafael. It was not a match-winning Johnson, though. Januzaj put paid to that with a vast amount  of chasing and harrying of  his own.

Poyet certainly used the interval. His players were reinvigorated when they returned from it, driving at United again and again early in the second period in a way that brought two fine defensive headers from Chris Smalling and provided fleeting senses that they would cause trouble here.

There was noise from the United support but it was intermittent, nervous noise. There was width about Sunderland, too, and a real sense of invention.

Their most exquisitely crafted move of the night bore the imprint of a squad who are together on the training pitch – a beautiful dummy by Steven Fletcher allowing the ball to flow through for Alonso who struck his half volley sweetly though sent it well wide of David de Gea’s left hand post. United managed nothing so fine as their first half creative impetus dried up.

There were intermittent signs, too, of the United defensive fraility that has defined the slough they have dropped into. Smalling, who does not always look like a defender with true conviction, was lucky to escape with a lumbering challenge on Fletcher, wrapping his arms around him and getting away with it when he was the last line of defence.

Sunderland played their own defensive part – hauling themselves into blocks when Januzaj, the only clear and present danger in United’s ranks, made to shoot. There was unmistakable appreciation around this place for the role Wes Brown played in the stadium where he fulfilled his dreams, hauling himself into another block when the game entered extra time.

But it said everything about Jonny Evans’ contribution was the night’s outstanding one. Sunderland needed excellence to seize on the half chances which came their way and Evans so often prevented that. After what the past five months have brought them, this was a form of  victory from which they will be sustained for the league battle ahead.

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Extras
indybest
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
Life and Style
health
Arts and Entertainment
Pink Floyd on stage at Live 8 in 2005. From left to right: David Gilmour, Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Rick Wright
music New album The Endless River set to overtake boyband for most pre-ordered of all-time
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink