Andy Welsh has backed his fearless Sunderland Under-21 side to push Manchester United all the way for the title.
The Black Cats kept up the pressure on the league leaders with a 3-2 win over Middlesbrough thanks to a Mikael Mandron double and a Carl Lawson strike.
It will be an intriguing run-in
Welsh has heaped praise on his young charges, who remain just two points behind United at the top of the Premier League Under 21 table.
“It will be an intriguing run-in,” Welsh told the Echo.
“United won again 1-0 but we got back to winning ways, which was important to keep up the pressure.
“We have no fear as United need to play Chelsea in a double header and they have to go to White Hart Lane too.
“It will be a good run-in and we are hoping to stay in touch and be there until the end of the season.”
Asked if they can win the title, he added: “I wouldn’t put it past these lads!
“Since I have been involved they have been terrific and they give us everything.
“I see no fear in them.
“We have competed well with United and Chelsea and there is no reason why we can’t go all the way with the top teams and we have to have a good go at it.”
Sunderland went ahead through an early Mandron header but made heavy work of extending their lead at the Stadium of Light.
They eventually ran out 3-2 winners despite a nervy end after Boro striker Arnel Jakupovic scored a late penalty.
It was the Under-21’s first win of 2016 and Welsh was pleased to see his side get back on track.
Welsh added: “We wanted to win the game and get back to winning ways.
“We have had some tough games but we had some really good performances in those.
“It was a derby and important to get the three points to stay near the top of the league.
“Scoring has been a problem but in those games it was tight and we were playing really good opposition so we didn’t want the game to be stretched.
“Against Middlesbrough we looked bright and we had done a lot of attacking work in training over the past week, and that showed in some of the fantastic football we played. It was nice to come away with the points.”