David Moyes says that it was an easy decision to select Jermain Defoe for Saturday’s FA Cup third round draw with Burnley.
Many had expected Defoe to be rested ahead of a pivotal month of Premier League action for Sunderland, but he led the line in what was a strong Black Cats XI.
John O’Shea was the only established first-eam player to be rested, Moyes making just two changes from the side that drew 2-2 with Liverpool five days earlier.
Javier Manquillo and the fit-again Jason Denayer replaced O’Shea and Didier Ndong, who has left for the Africa Cup of Nations.
Defoe had a quiet game at the end, increasingly starved of service as his side faded, himself looking leggy after a festive period in which he netted three times for the Black Cats.
The Sunderland boss said that selecting Defoe against Burnley was a sign that is he taking the FA Cup seriously and has genuine ambitions of a run to the latter stages of the competition.
Moyes said: “It was easy because I want to get through.
“If I didn’t [pick him] people would have said ‘why didn’t you play him?’”
Picking Defoe was also something of a statement in a week where the 34-year-old’s future has been the subject of intense scrutiny and debate.
West Ham United had a £6million bid for Defoe rejected last week and a number of pundits called on the Hammers to break the bank to sign Sunderland’s leading goal scorer.
Moyes, however, has been adamant from the beginning that Defoe was not for sale and even revealed he had not felt the need to speak to the striker about the speculation.
Defoe completed 90 minutes as Moyes resisted the temptation to throw on the youngsters in the closing stages of the game.
That decision disappointed some supporters, but Moyes insisted that it wasn’t necessary.
He said: “There was a lot of talk about playing young players, if needed we will, but if not then I don’t need to.
“I just told him he was playing and we got on with it.”