Jason Denayer must be a football manager’s dream.
Young, gifted and athletic, the Belgian can play anywhere – and not only that he can play very well, whatever the position,
I prefer to play centre-back, but I think it’s more important to play [in a different position] than not to playJASON DENAYER
So far, Denayer has turned out at centre-half, right-back, left-back and central midfield for Sunderland.
David Moyes faces a dilemma this weekend when he must decide between defence and midfield for the 21-year-old at Liverpool.
The versatile player, on a season-long loan from Manchester City, was used in front of the back four in the 3-0 win over Hull City.
After coming on at Bournemouth in that position following the sending off of Steven Pienaar, he was the choice of Moyes when the South African served his suspension against the Tigers.
Denayer proved very effective, not only defensively, but getting forward and showing quick feet.
Pienaar is likely to make an instant return, but there is a new vacancy following the sad news Paddy McNair will miss the rest of the season after rupturing his anterior cruciate knee ligament on Saturday.
Denayer, you would assume, will continue in midfield, but, with Papy Djilobodji sitting out Saturday’s match at Anfield after picking up two yellow cards against the Tigers, it means there is a void in central defence.
What will Moyes do?
Denayer classes central defence as his favoured home, but he will play anywhere for the cause.
“I prefer to play centre-back, but I think it’s more important to play [in a different position] than not to play,” he said.
“I played midfield when I was young and I enjoy playing there – it is no problem to play there.
“It is better to play than sit on the bench, wherever you play, you are happy.
“That’s what you train for, to play games.”
Denayer said he felt for McNair, who he played alongside in the centre of the park against Hull.
“There have been a lot of injuries and it’s sad to see Paddy out for all this season,” he said.
“It is such bad luck.”
Denayer has proven a quality operator, wherever his coaches have needed him, playing at the back for Celtic and in midfield for Galatasaray.
Last season in Istanbul, he won the Turkish Cup, while the previous year he was crowned the PFA Young Player of the Year after helping Celtic to a league and cup double.
But wherever the location, there is one thing Denayer wants from the team – football.
He laughed at a question that he is mentally scarred by a match at St Johnstone, where the Saints played a lot of long balls, but he said he was relieved Sunderland want to play the game the right way.
“St Johnstone just kicked the ball – they didn’t care about their midfield!” he said.
“The midfielders were just there because they needed 11 players.
“I like to play football, you enjoy the game more when you touch the ball.
“The manager here says sometimes we may have to use the long ball. but he wants us to play.”
Sunderland, despite the confidence gained from those back-to-back wins over Bournemouth and Hull, may find it tricky to play this Saturday against Liverpool,
Jurgen Klopp’s team are second in the Premier League with an unbeaten home record of four wins and a draw. with only four goals conceded.
“Anfield is a very nice stadium. but a very difficult place to play,” said Denayer.
“They have only lost one game, at Burnley, and it’s going to be very hard to go there, but we can’t go there with a losing mindset.
“We’ll stay positive, we’ll try hard and see what happens.”
Denayer says the Black Cats will be fired up, not only to maintain their good form, but end Sunderland’s mIserable run at the red sector of Merseyside.
“It will be difficult but we never know what can happen in football,” he said.
“Every game is different, we’ll go there positive.
“We want to be able to say ‘we were in the team which won at Liverpool for the first time in 30 years’.
“It is important we go there and try our best.”
Positive is a word in the Belgian’s vocabulary and he says the atmosphere has always remained strong at the Stadium of Light.
“Even for all that’s happened, the spirit has been good,” he said.
“There has been no bad feeling between anyone and there has been a positive frame of mind.”