David Moyes is planning for the future at Sunderland as he looks to build a new, younger team.
The challenge facing the Black Cats boss, though, is trying to achieve that while also keeping the club in the Premier League.
It can be a difficult balancing act, with survival the number one priority for Sunderland.
The team includes several senior pros, including Jermain Defoe, Victor Anichebe and Lamine Kone, but Moyes has been quick to give youth a chance since taking over from Sam Allardyce.
Homegrown Jordan Pickford has excelled since being given the opportunity to replace Vito Mannone while he recovered from an elbow injury.
The 22-year-old hasn’t looked back since, again impressing in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Watford, with Sunderland securing only their second clean sheet.
Donald Love was in at right-back, with fellow 22-year-old Didier Ndong back in central midfield after serving a one-game suspension.
Paddy McNair, Lynden Gooch and Duncan Watmore would have been involved in the squad if they hadn’t been ruled out with long-term injuries.
It has been a conscious effort to change the dynamic of the Sunderland squad as Moyes looks to shape a new, younger side.
Injuries have hit Moyes’ options hard, but it meant Under-23 players Joel Asoro, Ethan Robson and George Honeyman were on the bench.
Moyes concedes that you don’t know what to expect from younger players until they are given a chance to shine, but there is a clear desire to build a younger team.
Moyes said: “I think so.
“But I also think that young players, for example, Jordan Pickford wasn’t really in the team when I came, everybody knew about him, but until you put them in you don’t know what you’re going to get.
“But there’s been a lot of stuff about David de Gea and the Liverpool goalkeeper and I’m just using this as an example, David de Gea came in and it took him time to settle at Manchester United,
“Jordan got into this team and has nearly been flawless from the start.
“But you’re right, Ndong will improve with experience and games, and that’s why I was so disappointed when Paddy McNair and Lynden Gooch and Duncan got injured, because I’m trying to build a younger team.
“It doesn’t always look like it because obviously you’re trying to only win the next game.
“We’ve also tried to play some young players and Donald Love did very well and that was part of the duel thing, to try to build the team, try to keep us in the league.
“There’s been two objectives really.”
Moyes’ domestic loan signings have also been young, Jason Denayer from Manchester City and Adnan Januzaj from Manchester United, both 21 and both playing well in the win over Watford.
Victory lifted Sunderland above Hull City and Swansea City ahead of Christmas and the Boxing Day trip to Moyes’ former stomping ground, Old Trafford.
Ahead of the game, the Sunderland squad had the chance to relax.
The coaching staff, players, wives and girlfriends enjoying a festive night out before another week’s training. Moyes added: “We’re taking the players and the wives out and it’s a night for the wives and then we’ll train and then we’ll give them a couple of days off in the middle of the week and then we’ll get ready for work again at the back end of the week.”