Despite being heavily linked with a move to Old Trafford during the summer, Southampton were able to persuade Sadio Mane to remain at St. Marys. Now, having been left out of the Saints squad to face Norwich, Mane could be closer to a move to Manchester United than ever.
Ronald Koeman claimed that Mane had been left out because he had been late for a team meeting, and described his actions as “unacceptable”, saying “I cannot understand that these kind of mistakes can happen.” There is clearly a division between the pair.
Mane has been a peripheral figure at Southampton since his £12 million move in summer 2014 from Red Bull Salzburg. He was also one of the stories of the league last season, breaking Robbie Fowler’s record for scoring the fastest hat-trick in Premier League history. His treble against Aston Villa came in an astonishing two minutes and 56 seconds.
Despite this, he was never the most consistent player. There were many games where the Senegalese international looked like he had the ability to be among the best players in the Premier League. However there were many other games where he was completely and utterly ineffective, and having no impact on the match.
But it is clear to see why Louis van Gaal is keen on the winger. He has the pace and intensity that the Old Trafford faithful have been begging for all season. With Memphis Depay having problems both on and off the pitch, Manchester United may need to look to bring in another attacking player.
The Red Devils have also been very short of goals, and Mane will not only pop up with a few himself, he will also create a lot of chances for his team mates. He may be inconsistent, but when he is at the top of his game, he is nearly unstoppable.
There is also a good chance that Southampton could sell Mane. The Saints have become known as a selling club, with the likes of Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw and Morgan Schneiderlin all being sold for hefty profits over the past couple of seasons.
In his interview, Koeman claimed this wasn’t the first time that Mane has been late for a club meeting. By dropping him for the match at Norwich, the Dutchman showed that he doesn’t believe the 23-year-old is indispensible, and he is prepared to risk losing him by enforcing his rules.
United will have the financial power at their disposal to buy Mane, and there is a good chance that Southampton would be willing to do business. This is certainly going to be a move worth watching during January.