Ronald Koeman admits he faces his toughest month in management as the battle to keep Manchester United target Sadio Mane at Southampton reaches boiling point.
Koeman dropped Mane to the bench at Carrow Road and was highly-critical of his attitude after the 23-year-old Senegal international turned up late for his pre-match team meeting.
Koeman admits he had already given the player a dressing down only last Thursday over “not being focused” in training amid speculation linking him with a January move to Old Trafford, and must now decide whether to take further action.
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Koeman also saw Victor Wanyama sent off for a “stupid” tackle that earned him a second yellow card as Southampton slid to a sixth defeat in eight Premier League matches, a run that has seen them fall from seventh to 13th in the table.
“It is the most difficult situation [I have faced] until now, of course,” Koeman told the Daily Telegraph. “Everything was going well, we had a lot of positive critics. That was the message to the players – it is so easy when everything is going well but now we have to keep togetherness. That is what I expect and that is not what we showed today.”
The 52-year-old is normally calm and measured in his post-match analysis but on this occasion was visibly angry. He became most exasperated when asked if he felt Mane’s attitude was linked with the opening of the January window. “Ask him,” he demanded. “Ask him really why. Ask him – I don’t know.”
Koeman has insisted time and again that Mane is not for sale, but may find his determination thoroughly put to the test should United make an official bid for the player this month.