Patrick van Aanholt has warned Sunderland fans not to expect a Manchester United low on confidence simply because they started their Premier League campaign with a defeat.
The Red Devils lost their opening match 2-1 at home to Swansea City. But Dutch left-back van Aanholt, capped twice by Louis van Gaal last season, does not think that one setback will undo all the good work of pre-season.
“They lost the first game but it doesn’t mean that they will have no confidence because they had a good pre-season,” he said ahead of Sunday’s opening home game against the Red Devils.
“I know the manager very well from being the national team manager for Holland last season. I know how he does things and he will put a team out that wants to win and get the three points.
“He will train them hard this week. I know he hates losing – I think everybody does – so I think he will have the team ready and be ready for a fight on Sunday.”
Van Gaal notoriously does not lack self-confidence, but has been frustrated in his attempts to reshape a squad which badly under-performed last season. To date Marcos Rojo, Ander Herrera and the injured Luke Shaw are the only senior additions. Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra, Ryan Giggs and Nani have left.
They beat Roma, Real Madrid and Liverpool, and drew with Inter Milan in pre-season.
Sunderland also had a positive build-up to the new campaign but van Aanholt, signed from Chelsea last month, admitted they were fortunate to draw 2-2 with West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.
“Obviously we went there for the three points, but in the end I think we were lucky to get a point,” he reflected.
“We scored a late equaliser (through Sebastian Larsson) and it was important we got something out of our first game.
“It was the first game. Anything could have happened. If we had lost it wouldn’t have been the end of the world but we got a point. It’s always very difficult to come back from 2-1 down but fortunately we did and showed good character to take a point.”
Like their visitors, Sunderland can expect more squad changes in the last week-and-a-half of transfer activity this year.
With a £14m move for Fabio Borini increasingly unlikely amid rumours he is holding out for an Inter Milan bid, Emanuele Giaccherini could have a more prominent role.
The Black Cats will therefore be happy the 29-year-old Italy international has reaffirmed his commitment to the club despite rumours of interest from Fiorentina. “In the past my name has been linked with Fiorentina, but I’ve never heard anything concrete, official,” he said. “Maybe it was just all talk.
“The only thing I know is that, for now, I feel good in England.
“With Sunderland I have three more years on my contract. I am happy with the experience I’m having and I hope this year we can do better than last year, also because I did everything and now the coach knows me better.
“Florence is a city I love so much. I was born 50 miles from there and my wife loves it.
“Why not in the future?”
Manchester United striker Danny Welbeck is the latest player linked as an alternative to Borini.
Welbeck enjoyed a successful loan on Wearside in 2010-11 but at the end of last season he admitted his frustration at not regularly playing his favourite position of centre-forward, so on that basis a reunion with his then-Sunderland manager Steve Bruce could be more appealing.