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First things first

7 January 2014

Sunderland winger Adam Johnson and boss Gus Poyet take the ‘one game at a time’ approach to the Capital One Cup semi against Manchester United

Sunderland manager Gus Poyet and his England winger Adam Johnson are on the same wavelength as they look to produce a Capital One Cup upset by reaching the Final through beating Manchester United in their two-leg semi.

Neither manager nor player wants to talk about stepping out at Wembley for March 2nd’s Final; all they are concerned with is getting a good result in Tuesday evening’s home leg before travelling to Old Trafford for the conclusion of the tie.

The Black Cats, bottom of the Premier League, are underdogs, but they must feel they are in with a good shout as United have made a faltering start to the season under new manager David Moyes following the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson.

The Red Devils are Premier League champions, but they head into the Capital One Cup semi-final standing an unimpressive seventh in the table and on Sunday went out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle, beaten at home by Swansea City.

Former Middlesbrough and Manchester City player Johnson said: “I think Manchester United are going through their most difficult spell in, what, 10 or 15 years? So if there’s ever a good time to play them, it’s probably now. 

“But they’ve got a top quality team and top quality players, so we know it’s going to be extremely difficult even if they are having a bit of a struggle. And I think the key thing is to go to Old Trafford for the return leg knowing that we have a chance.”

Boss Poyet, whose team have already pulled off a Capital One Cup shock by knocking out Chelsea in the quarter-final, said in agreement: “I don't want to get bogged down by thinking of the second leg, I just want to win a football match at home.

“We have to try to defend well, not make mistakes, not give encouragement to our opponents and if we can get a few chances, let's take them. Let's not forget that this is a cup semi-final for us and our fans. We have earned the right to be there.

“Now we have to do everything to give a good account of ourselves, just like against Chelsea. It's important that the players enjoy the occasion. I don't want them feeling the pressure, I want them to see it as a chance to show how well they can do.”

The pressure will certainly be off in terms of Sunderland’s situation in the Premier League, and they head into the Capital One Cup tie having progressed in the FA Cup with a 3-1 third round win against Sky Bet League 1 team Carlisle United on Sunday.

“The Cups have been the nicest part of the season,” added ex-Brighton boss Poyet, “so let's enjoy it. But the reality is that I just want to win the game and then, depending on what happens, assess how we go forward in the second leg.”

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