Gustavo Poyet has promised to do everything possible to avoid a repeat of Saturday’s opening half-hour at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
Sunderland go into their League Cup semi-final second leg at Manchester United on the back of a morale-boosting 2-2 draw with Southampton.
However, a first 31 minutes in which they let the visitors stroll into a 2-0 lead – it would have been more but for Rickie Lambert hitting the post and Jack Cork missing an open goal from 15 yards into Sunderland territory – was as concerning as the comeback was heartening.
Poyet, whose team will defend a 2-1 aggregate lead this week, said: “I’m going to watch it again and see how much I’m responsible.
“I’ll do everything possible to put it right, but do I prefer this result and the way we finished to the Aston Villa result (a 1-0 defeat) and the way we started and were then awful.
“If we go to Manchester and play like we did for the first 30 minutes, we’re out, for sure.
“Now let’s make sure we make better decisions and me first, picking the right team. Then we need to make the right decisions on passing and movement and reading the game. It was very poor for 28, 29 minutes.”
That Wednesday’s game is away could be an advantage as both sides seem to be struggling for form on their own ground.
Poyet added: “It is difficult for the players individually and depending on how many it affects then it starts to spread in the team. Of course the fans see the result (at Fulham the previous week, a 4-1 win) and think ‘Okay, we’re okay now, let’s beat Southampton’ but it doesn’t work like that because any team can perform badly.
“However, in a situation like we’re in nobody is expecting us to have 30 minutes like we had on Saturday.”
Planning Wednesday’s tactics is not Poyet’s only pressing issue after Friday’s sacking of director of football Roberto De Fanti, which he says surprised him.
Poyet hopes to speak today to owner and chairman Ellis Short to plan ahead. Sunderland are negotiating to sign a host of players, including Liam Bridcutt – who wasn’t ‘focused enough’ to play for Brighton on Saturday after his transfer request was refused – Will Buckley, Ignacio Scocco, Santiago Vergini and Mariano Andújar and it was De Fanti’s responsibility to close out those deals.
As has often been the case during his time as Sunderland coach, Poyet’s substitutes were important on Saturday and he paid particular tribute to Steven Fletcher.
He said: “I was very close to making substitutions at half-time but I thought I’d leave it for five minutes. We played well so I gave it 10 and then 12. I’ve been lucky as a coach following my instincts.
“I asked Fletch if he was able to take a risk for the club and his team-mates and the fans. He had a little inflammation in his achilles and you never know. It can get worse with an achilles injury.
“We told him not to go over the top but I said: ‘I might need you’ and he said ‘I’m happy with that’.
“He warmed up on the bike indoors. He went on and gave us a very good 20 minutes.”