Gus Poyet has vowed to wrap defender Wes Brown in cotton wool after seeing him inspire Sunderland to a stunning victory over Manchester City.
Full-back Phil Bardsley's 21st-minute strike ultimately clinched three precious points for the Black Cats courtesy of their fourth successive 1-0 Barclays Premier League victory over City on Wearside.
However, it was the rearguard action masterminded by 34-year-old former Manchester United defender Brown, making his first league start for almost 22 months, which kept the visitors at bay in the face of a concerted assault.
Poyet said: "He was maybe the key to the clean sheet, maybe the difference between conceding and not.
"It's maybe the different level you can see with a player who has won the Premier League and can see things before the rest.
"Look, it was not easy to keep him out because I know that Wes was desperate to get back. But as a staff and as a manager especially, you have to make decisions even when they are hard, so we kept him out.
"To be fair to him, the last two weeks he has trained every day, so there was no special treatment.
"Then depending on how he feels, we need to be smart. There is a sentence in football which is great: the manager needs to treat everybody the same way.
"No chance. They are all different. They come from different parts of the world, they are different characters and unfortunately in football, there are players who are more important than the others.
"I don't think you would treat (Lionel) Messi the same way that you would treat ones on the bench. I'm not comparing him to Messi - he is not Messi, Wes, don't get me wrong - I am just saying sometimes you need to know the person, know the player and manage him."
Brown had a hand in the decisive goal after playing Bardsley in over the top with James Milner failing to stop him, and then watching as the full-back curled a neat shot across keeper Costel Pantilimon and inside the far post.
That condemned the visitors to their fourth league defeat of the season on their travels and extended Sunderland's remarkable stranglehold on the fixture.
City boss Manuel Pellegrini said: "You cannot play the game thinking of the past, you must think of the best way to win it.
"We tried to do it today and we couldn't, but I think it's unbelievable that we lost the match today. The way we are playing as a team defending and attacking I think is the correct way."
Pellegrini admitted his side's poor away form could have significant repercussions for their title hopes.
He said: "I am concerned because we are losing too many points away, and of course, that's very difficult if you don't win away to try to fight for the Premier League."