GUS Poyet will not under-estimate the threat posed by Manchester United this evening – even if neither Robin van Persie nor Wayne Rooney plays.
The world class duo are major doubts for the vital Capital One Cup semi-final second leg at Old Trafford as they continue their fitness battles
Van Persie (thigh) and Rooney (groin) have missed 10 and four games respectively but both returned to training this week with Rooney given the better odds of being involved this evening.
Poyet though was quick to point out that there is no easy ride against Manchester United whatever side they put out.
And he says he is expecting the toughest of challenges for a game offering a Wembley final at the end of it.
“They are a very good team, regardless of how things are going at the moment,” he noted.
“If you ask me if I prefer van Persie and Rooney to play I will say: ‘no’.
“If you are going to have to play Real Madrid, you would want Cristiano Ronaldo out; if you had to play Barcelona, you would be happier if Lionel Messi was out.
“But they would still be formidable sides – even without their star players – and the same goes for Man United.”
Poyet accepts that with United having already lost four league games at home this season, as well as losing four of their last five games, these are unusual times for the Premier League champions with that aura of invincibility slipping under new boss David Moyes
And with van Persie and Rooney big doubts and captain Nemanja Vidic suspended, there’s no doubt that tonight’s game represents a major opportunity for Sunderland who carry a 2-1 advantage into the game from their first leg victory at the Stadium of Light.
“I’m realistic,” shrugged Poyet. “It’s not a normal situation that we have at Man United, that’s the truth, I appreciate that.
“But they are in a situation which they need to go through and that will bring lots of effort, character and extra commitment from them – that’s if that’s possible, because I think they gave everything against Chelsea!
“But we need to play with that, we need to make the most of it – that’s part of the game.
“If you start the game strong and aggressive, then you can start enjoying your possession after time.
“But we need to start well, be solid, be good on the ball and not give anything away cheap.
“You have to do all the things that you need to do to beat Man United, you have to hold your discipline, you have to be strong and you maybe have to have that bit of luck.
“We will see.”