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Quick Kicks: SAFC v MUFC Thoughts & Reaction

With three more points on board, are Sunderland now primed for survival?

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What The Gaffer Said

It was a humongous result for Sunderland and yet another indication that we may well have what it takes to survive by the skin of our teeth, showing immense courage and heart in recent weeks whilst proving that we have quality all over the pitch.

It was a great first goal to get us off the mark, after that we missed the chance to go 2-0 up, which is unlike Jermain Defoe, and we paid the price for that one with the 1-1 at half time.

We came out in the second half and really took the game to Manchester United, they were on the back foot. We had a chance that was cleared off the line; [Dame] N’Doye, who was one-on-one, had his chance saved by the keeper and I was thinking, ‘please lads, don’t throw this away’.

Our winner highlights the importance of set pieces and the quality of the ball in. Obviously big Lamine [Kone] stuck his head on it and it was a well-deserved goal for us. I don’t think anyone can say that we didn’t deserve to win this football match today.

Injuries caused us a problem this week, so the team kind of picked itself. Jermain had to have a late fitness test and then Jan [Kirchhoff] came off with a hamstring injury after half an hour. But the way we were playing was very good, very similar to how we played against Manchester City and the fans were right behind us throughout it.

The team showed terrific resilience, even though we conceded a goal today, I thought as a team we defended very well against some of the bigger boys in the Premier League.

Ultimately, the quality of two set pieces won us the game. The first one was Wahbi’s free kick, then the second corner has been headed in by Lamine. The importance of set pieces is there for us all to see. It has won us three very precious points and we’re all absolutely delighted.

We’ve got a break now and that gives all of the injuries a chance to recover for the trip down to West Ham.

I’m really pleased for everybody. That result makes us feel very good.  We all like to feel good for a weekend, particularly the fans here. I hope they have a fabulous weekend - because they deserve it after the support they’ve given us!

Although Sam's demeanor is often of a man that doesn't seem to feel pressure, it's clear that an immense weight has been lifted from his shoulders following Saturday's result. I had said all week that it was vital that we win the game if we were to stand any chance of survival and, credit where it's due, we got it.

It was a deserved victory, too. It was as good as we've looked in some time and our attacking play is a joy to behold at times, we just need to ensure we keep it up when we head to West Ham in just under two weeks.

Van Aanholt Quality Showing On A Consistent Basis

He's often criticised for his lack of defensive ability but I felt on Saturday that Patrick Van Aanholt looked more assured as a defender than he ever has whilst a Sunderland player.

I hark back to a comment Sam made not long after he joined the club about the Dutch left back, where he said something along the lines of that Patrick needed to listen to him if he was going to improve, and it feels as though the penny has finally dropped.

We seem to have stumbled across a real player and, if he can continue to show the level of performance that he has done in recent weeks, he'll begin to earn the respect he deserves from his doubters.

Lamine Kone And Wahbi Khazri

Is anyone else as astounded as I am at just how easily Lamine Kone and Wahbi Khazri have slotted into our side?

It feels as though the two of them have always been there. Both players have improved the overall quality of our side immeasurably and if we are going to stay up then keeping them fit and motivated has to be our priority.

When I spoke to people about Khazri around the time that he signed I was told that he doesn't particularly like to get stuck in and do the dirty work but I have to admit that I've seen nothing of the sort since he made his debut against Manchester City. He's unbelievably fit and I'd say he worked just as hard as any of our players off the ball at the weekend.

Similarly, Lamine Kone just seems to have it all. He's big, strong, athletic, good in the air, a compotent passer, a goal threat on absolutely every set piece, fearless and above all else he seems to completely understand what is required if you're to be a success at Sunderland.

One look at his twitter feed and you'll see just how much the lad seems to be loving life at the club. His enthusiasm is infectious and it feels as though we've found a real gem in the Ivorian international.

Winning Without Defoe's Influence Crucial

I'm not saying that Jermain Defoe didn't play well - he worked as hard as he always does - but the fact that we won the game without him having a huge influence on the overall outcome should be viewed as a massive plus point.

One thing people have rightly leveled at Sunderland is whether or not we'd cope with a Defoe injury, or whether we'd be able to win games without him, but I feel on Saturday that we definitely proved that we can pick up results in games where Jermain hasn't had to dig us out of the muck.

In recent weeks we've definitely became more of a 'team', and as a result we seem to be performing in all areas of the pitch.