PATRICK van Aanholt is in contention to come straight back into the fold for Sunderland’s trip to Manchester United tomorrow.
The left-back was dropped from the starting line-up for the first time in his Sunderland career against West Brom last weekend and was limited to an outing as a late substitute.
He has to improve all the time.Gus Poyet
Gus Poyet opted to bring Santiago Vergini in at full-back instead, and switch veteran Anthony Reveillere to the left, to strengthen Sunderland’s resolve at the back.
Poyet was wary of the Baggies exploiting the attack-minded van Aanholt after opting for a more adventurous 4-4-2, while he was also wary of the visitors’ threat from set pieces.
But van Aanholt is likely to return for this weekend’s trip to Old Trafford, where Poyet believes the Dutchman’s pace could be an attacking weapon for the Black Cats.
Poyet told the Gazette: “He will be back in contention tomorrow for sure.
“He’s important. If Man U play a diamond (in midfield) then he’s very important because there’s space down the sides. We’ll see.
“It was a bit of size (against West Brom) plus we had enough players to create.
“Not having Jack Rodwell, we were quite small as a team and the main thing from West Brom is set plays. They scored two goals from two corners against Burnley.
“With Patrick and Anthony, we were very small.
“Having two wingers and two strikers as well, going a bit more defensive in the back four wasn’t a bad idea either.”
Van Aanholt has been a success since his £1.5million summer switch from Chelsea after starting 19 times in all competitions, despite missing two months of action with a shoulder injury.
But while the 24-year-old’s prowess going forwards has been evident, he remains vulnerable defensively.
That is something Sunderland continue to work on with van Aanholt, in the Dutch international’s first season as a Premier League regular.
“He has to improve all the time,” added Poyet.
“People think that we buy players, put them in and if they do well on the pitch, then they’re in all the time.
“No, we’re trying to adapt to what we do in a certain way.
“Of course it’s a process.
“When the team is winning it’s a bit easier, but when there’s doubts, there’s too many things you’re thinking about.”
Meanwhile, Rodwell and Billy Jones are pencilled in to return for Sunderland’s trip to Hull City next week, rather than being risked at Old Trafford.
Midfielder Rodwell has been out for almost a month with a groin problem, while full-back Jones missed last weekend’s stalemate with his former club West Brom due to a swollen ankle.
The pair have been in light training this week, but Poyet will adopt a safety-first approach with them and wait until Tuesday’s trip to bogey team Hull to bring them back into the fold.
Poyet said: “We are not going to risk Billy. We’re going to wait until Tuesday and Jack the same.
“But the rest of the squad is there. We’re in good shape. Now it’s up to us to perform on Saturday at 3pm.
“I like to plan a little bit and train a few things, and when you have most of the squad that you have for the weekend, you can really do things in a different way.
“Even a corner. If you have everyone training, it’s easier.
“Last week, three or four players who played at the weekend didn’t train until the Friday.
“This week has been much better.”