Sunderland v Manchester United: Gus Poyet tells Sunderland to stop Jekyll and Hyde act and seize big chance in Capital One Cup

 

Gus Poyet slowly rolled the fingers of his left hand into a fist. “When the opportunity to play in a cup final comes along, you must grasp it,” he said. At least when it comes to cup football, the players he took over in October have listened.

Sunderland are Jekyll and Hyde. The team bottom of the Premier League with just three wins all season are the only side in England with a 100 per cent record in the domestic cups. When those around his team at the foot of the division speak of a lack of interest in the FA Cup (Aston Villa) or play significantly weakened teams (West Ham), Poyet plots a different and deliberate path. There is a search for a spark in the red-and-white corner of the North-east, or, as he admits, an attempt to alter the mindset of a football club that has got used to losing.

He speaks of psychological impact that alludes to the battered squad he inherited from Paolo Di Canio and from a loser’s mentality that preceded even the Italian’s controversial time in charge at the Stadium of Light. Sunderland face a Capital One League Cup semi-final against Manchester United, the first leg of which takes place tonight, before a fourth-round FA Cup tie at home to either Kidderminster or Peterborough. That contrasts dramatically with a league record of five wins from their last 33 games.

“It could be that there is no pressure on the players,” Poyet said yesterday. “The players are relaxed. It’s a cup game against a top team and it looks like – not for me – that if you lose, nothing happens. For me, if you lose, you are not a winner. You’re a loser, but it could be that it brings something different to the players, not as individuals, but as a group. If it continues, great, we are in a cup final.

“If you are playing Chelsea in the league and it is 1-1, how many of the players would take a draw? But in the cup, you must win. I keep saying this, but more and more in football it’s the mental side of things that’s most important. Fitness, the difference is not a lot. Technically, they’re very similar. But mentally, taking decisions, that is the difference.

“Why is there a difference between our league form and the cup games? Ask me tomorrow. We will have a better idea after that. Me, I played for a Chelsea team that won cups, but we never won the league. That doesn’t mean we weren’t playing the same way or trying the same. We were a cup team. It is very difficult to win the league, but something was missing: consistency. And that is definitely one of the things that’s missing here, without a doubt. We won a few times in the cup and then, the next game, when everybody expects us to win, something happens.”

It is hard to imagine just how desperate Sunderland’s season would be without the unexpected joy the cups have brought. The springboard, the follow-up of form from cup to league has still to materialise and that rankles with the manager. Typically there is no pattern, and as Poyet scrutinises every aspect of every game in minute detail, it adds to the confusion.

Sunderland beat Southampton in the Capital One Cup and then beat Manchester City in the following Premier League game at the start of November but after the euphoria of victory in the same competition against Chelsea came a hugely disappointing home draw with Norwich in which they ended up a player short following the dismissal of Wes Brown. The significance may well come from Poyet’s own tone, which appears less confrontational.

“This is the nicest part of the season because the rest has been a nightmare, so let’s try and enjoy it and achieve something,” he added. “It is nice to come here and talk about semi-finals and not talk about points so we will try to enjoy it.

“I was lucky enough to win this competition as a coach with Spurs under Juande Ramos. People forget very quickly. But how long will it be before Tottenham win another trophy? They are out of both cups and are not going to win the league. The Europa League is their only chance. Sometimes it takes 10 years even for a team like that to win something. So if you have a little chance, like we have, you must take it.”

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
News
i100
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
News
A rub on the tummy sprang Casey back to life
video
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
people
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
News
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
people
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
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

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little