Sunderland manager Gus Poyet has revealed that he told Patrick van Aanholt to treat Sunday’s FA Cup third-round tie against Leeds United as a friendly.
The 24-year-old defender made his first competitive appearance since early November in the clash against the Championship outfit at the Stadium of Light.
Former Chelsea left-back Van Aanholt has been suffering with a shoulder injury over the last few weeks, but he has now fully recovered.
It was always going to be tough for the Netherlands international to make a comeback against Leeds, but he gave a good account of himself in the 1-0 win.
It was Van Aanholt who scored the only goal of the match in the 33rd minute, leading Poyet to shower the defender with praise.
“With all due respect to Leeds we told Patrick to treat the game as a friendly and for him to ease his way back into it, as you do when you’re returning from an injury to make sure that you’re okay,” the Uruguayan told Sunderland’s official website.
“It was good for him and for us it was perfect, he played a full 90 minutes and scored a goal and got through it all without any problems.
“We know what qualities he brings to the side and we’ve not seen him score before – he’s even scored before Santi, [Vergini] which is surprising when you look at some of the chances he’s had in the last year.”
The psychological strategy that Poyet used to ease Van Aanholt into action is impressive indeed.