GUS POYET is braced for the sternest test of his managerial career tonight, in reacting to the changing circumstances of the Capital One Cup semi-final.
While the scrutiny is on Poyet’s under-pressure opposite number David Moyes at Old Trafford tonight, the Sunderland head coach is also ready for a draining encounter.
Sunderland’s players will be told to treat the semi-final second leg as any other game and target victory, despite holding a one-goal advantage from the first leg at the Stadium of Light.
But Poyet, his own worst critic, recognises the onus is on him to be pro-active in responding to the aggregate scoreline and whether away goals will prove to be decisive in case the encounter goes to extra-time.
Poyet told the Echo: “For the players, it should be more or less the same as a normal game.
“But for the manager or head coach, it’s a different game. The way I am, I always blame myself first.
“The idea for us is to go and play the game like any game. If it’s 0-0, let’s win it.
“But then during the game, you need to adapt to the situation because of the score.
“It’s not the same when you get to 80 minutes if it’s 0-0, than if you’re 1-0 down. That can completely change the qualification.
“I think you need to manage it differently - the option of extra-time, away goals counting after extra-time, penalties. There are so many things you need to consider.
“From the point of view of the staff, it’s different.
“There’s nothing after this. If we don’t do it tonight, that’s it, we’re out.”
Sunderland have netted three times in their two meetings against Manchester United this season, with Fabio Borini’s penalty at the Stadium of Light a fortnight ago giving the Black Cats a slight advantage in the tie.
And Poyet believes Sunderland need to get on the scoresheet again tonight, if they are to secure a place in March’s Wembley showpiece against Manchester City.
“I think the important thing is we need to score,” he added.
“If we go there thinking the only way to get through is a 0-0, we’re wrong.”
“But we’ve got a great chance of getting to the final and that would be a step forward for the club and give the fans something to celebrate after a difficult season.”