The French midfielder slotted seamlessly into a central defensive role alongside the skipper as we secured a 2-1 win in the Premier League encounter at the Stadium of Light.
The pair were largely untroubled as the Black Cats took the lead against the run of play before Paulinho and John O’Shea’s own goal turned it around deservedly in our favour.
“Etienne was top-class,” said Michael. “To come in and perform the way he did, especially after being out injured himself, was testament to him.
“You forget about that – it’s not like he’d been playing regularly and just slotted in for the odd game. He came in and performed like he’d played there for years.
“He was calm and well-disciplined, because sometimes midfielders come in to play centre-half and they want to charge forward.
“He stood strong and had to, because we had to deal with aerial balls into Fletcher and Altidore and they are two big players for them, they can cause problems, but as a pair we did well and it was great to get the win.”