In a corridor deep in the bowels of the Stadium of Light on Saturday evening, David Moyes assumed the guise of a protective father in declaring he had spoken quite enough about Adnan Januzaj. Moyes's experience, not least at Everton with an emerging Wayne Rooney, means his base reaction will be to play down what hype already surrounds Manchester United's latest teenage revelation.
Moyes proved more forthcoming about David de Gea who, at 22, is a relative veteran in comparison. Should Joe Hart seek any advice on how to handle negative coverage of his performances, he could do worse than pick up the phone to De Gea. Not so long ago it was United's goalkeeper who was viewed as the weakest link in Manchester.
For all that Januzaj's second-half double floored Sunderland, De Gea's earlier brilliance was also crucial. During an opening period in which United's defending was the stuff of comic cuts – as highlighted by Nemanja Vidic's error that enabled Craig Gardner to open the scoring – only De Gea prevented Sunderland from going two in front.
The Spaniard threw himself to his right to bat away a netbound header from Emanuele Giaccherini. It was an outstanding piece of goalkeeping, with Peter Schmeichel's assessment that De Gea had produced one of the finest saves he had ever seen especially notable. No player, after all, has been consistently able to match Schmeichel's performances as a United No1. "It is one of the best I have ever seen as well," said Moyes. "It was incredible. I said it on the bench right away, what a save it was. It's an amazing save, it really is.
"And that was a turning point. I didn't think we deserved to be losing but had we gone 2-0 down then it would have been a mountain to climb. Obviously it would have given Sunderland a great boost. When Sir Alex Ferguson brought David in there probably were a few seasons when it might have been a bit rocky but I think he has definitely established himself now.
"He is improving all the time. You can see he has great agility and he needed it to make that save. I have been really impressed by his athleticism and he is still a young goalkeeper. I thought the old manager was brave to bring a young goalkeeper in; it is actually hard to bring in young goalkeepers and young centre-halves. Hopefully David will feel the benefit of that in the years to come."
Moyes bridled when it was put to him that De Gea's moment could have changed the landscape of United's entire season, rather than just this match. "I don't think so. Not my landscape," said the Scot.
The reality suggests otherwise. Had United lost on Wearside for the first time on league business since 1997 – and the first time at this venue – the international break would have been interspersed with further discord towards Moyes's performance in his new job. The combined efforts of De Gea and Januzaj prevented United from slipping to a third league defeat in a row for the first time in 12 years.
Sunderland, instead, are the ones with troubles. They look set to make a permanent managerial appointment at the start of this week with Ellis Short, the owner, faced with the unenviable decision of whether to retain faith in Kevin Ball or risk an alternative and costly appointment which may result in relegation in any case. Ball has a better chance of landing this post than his team, with one point from seven games, have of survival.
Januzaj's two goals had been preceded by an outrageous dive that rightly brought the teenager a yellow card. Debate now surrounds which nation the former Anderlecht player will pledge his allegiance to. A handful, including England, hold out hope; quite why a player tipped for greatness at club level would pick mediocrity on the international scene is open to question.
Moyes is due credit for his promotion of Januzaj's talents. Yet two significant points from the win will not be lost on the United manager. He cannot, and should not have to, rely on an 18-year-old for an entire season. United's defensive shoddiness would also have been more readily punished by superior opposition. In their past seven Premier League matches away from home, United have conceded 15 goals.
On this occasion, Rooney was industrious rather than eye-catching. The forward spent the closing minutes hobbling, having aggravated what Moyes explained was an existing problem. "Wayne had a real bad shin injury," Moyes added. "He had a clash of shins with Danny Welbeck in training before we went to Donetsk. He has quite a bit of fluid in the side of his shin from the bruising. But he ran a thousand miles today for us, he was terrific in that manner. He was a great team player for us."
United's manager said he was "sure" Rooney would be fit to appear for England on Friday. "He wants to play for his country and he is in good form."
The same can be said of De Gea.Moyes is suitably grateful for that.
Marouane Fellaini could be ruled out beyond the international break. The midfielder is due to see a hand specialist in Manchester on Monday night for what is believed to be an injury to his wrist, before flying out to Belgium, and may need surgery.
Man of the match Adnan Januzaj (Manchester United)