SUNDERLAND’S focus is on signing a new goalkeeper – not selling one – after Vito Mannone was linked with a surprise switch to Manchester United.
Reports in Italy yesterday suggested the reigning Premier League champions were considering Mannone as a possible back-up to David De Gea after the £2million summer arrival’s impressive start to his Sunderland career.
But Black Cats boss Gus Poyet has brushed off the speculation and does not expect Mannone’s head to be turned by the rumours.
Instead, Poyet’s aim is to bolster Sunderland’s goalkeeping ranks, with Mannone’s rival Keiren Westwood ruled out for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury.
Westwood’s international team-mate David Forde is one name under contention, with the 34-year-old out-of-contract at the end of the season and available for a minimal fee from Championship side Millwall.
Forde is wary of how being number two at Sunderland could affect his international chances, but realises that a move to the Stadium of Light would be financially lucrative.
Sunderland have also been credited with an interest in two Argentine keepers playing in Italy – Catania’s Mariano Andujar and Genoa’s Albano Bizzarri – and Poyet admits it is a position he is looking to strengthen before the end of the January window.
Poyet told the Echo: “I think Vito is calm about everything.
“It was a very different situation for me with Vito and Westy (to give Mannone his first Premier League start) probably one of the hardest decisions I made before Manchester City.
“Unfortunately, Westy has had an operation now and is out for another three months. But I’m calm over Vito. There are players that you can talk openly to and Vito is one of those.
“It’s a position that we are looking at.
“We’re working on a few positions and I can say openly, that we’re looking at goalkeepers, although that doesn’t mean someone will come.
“I don’t want to say I’m going to bring in this, this and this, because then you don’t have the quality. But if there’s a player who I know can come in and help us quickly, then I will do.”
In Westwood’s absence, England Under-19 stopper Jordan Pickford has provided back-up for Mannone and the highly-rated 19-year-old at least has Football League experience after a loan spell at Burton Albion earlier this season.
But Poyet says Sunderland’s need for a new keeper will be highlighted in Wednesday’s Capital One Cup semi-final second leg when Pickford is cup-tied.
Pickford’s fellow academy product Joel Dixon will occupy a spot on the bench, with the Middlesbrough-born goalie’s only competitive experience coming in a loan spell at Conference North side Workington Reds earlier this season.
“Joel doesn’t know how he will react if he is asked to go on at Old Trafford, with 20 minutes to go and it’s still 0-0,” added Poyet.
“I need to be fair with him and his family. I’m sure they’d say ‘he’ll be alright, put him on’.
“I would do if I had to, it’s no problem. But we don’t know about him, so it’s uncomfortable for him too.”