GUS POYET believes there is a greater mental resilience around Sunderland this season, as they bid to deepen the sense of gloom at Manchester United.
Sunderland scrambled a late equaliser at West Brom last weekend to get their points tally off the mark in a game which both Poyet and his players remarked afterwards was one they would have lost 12 months ago after falling behind with 15 minutes to go.
Poyet was encouraged by his players drawing that conclusion themselves at the Hawthorns, without any prompting.
And the Black Cats boss believes that bodes well for tomorrow’s Stadium of Light opener against a Man United side who Sunderland beat at Old Trafford in May.
He told SportMail: “I think there is a different feeling among the players this season.
“I left the dressing room at West Brom, 10 minutes after the game finished.
“I said what I needed to say to the players, but I didn’t say anything about last year.
“Then I went to the press and said last year we would have lost that game three or 4-1.
“At the same time, Seb Larsson was saying the same thing.
“And on Monday when we came back and I was talking to Cooky (John Cooke, kit manager) he said the boys were saying the same thing on the bus.
“So no doubt, they realise these things themselves now.
“They realise how weak mentally they were at the start of last season.
“Now they’re thinking ‘we’re going to go for it’.
“That’s a great feeling for us.
“If we can repeat that, it’s going to be difficult to play against us.”
While Poyet believes the confidence from last season’s Great Escape has been maintained among his players, there is clearly a hangover in the United side from their seventh placed finish last time around.
United succumbed on the opening day against Swansea and with new boss Louis van Gaal still looking to bring in new signings, Poyet was inevitably asked whether it was a good time to face the Red Devils.
“If we look at last week’s result, probably they are still waiting for players to come in,” he said.
“I’m sure they’ll bring in a few more. But on the hand, it’s very difficult to see Man United losing two games in a row.
“They’ve got quality and I’m sure they’ll be up for it.
“For us, it’s a special day, the first game at home of the season.
“But we need to be better than last week, be better on the ball, to have a chance.”
Poyet’s options will be boosted by the availability of right-backs Santiago Vergini and Billy Jones tomorrow – one of which will take Valentin Roberge’s place in the back four.
On-loan Vergini missed the clash at West Brom after the Costa Rican FA, where the Argentine’s parent club are based, failed to send the 26-year-old’s clearance on the FIFA electronic registration system.
Sunderland were fully aware of the situation, yet without the suitable clearance, they had no alternative than to leave Vergini out at the Hawthorns, before they eventually received the all-clear on Wednesdady.
Jones, who has been in full training all week, is also available after missing the return to his former club with a hamstring injury.
Poyet added: “Billy has trained well and it’s a decision I need to make.”