Southampton manager Ronald Koeman says the club have no intention of selling striker Sadio Mane during the January transfer window, in a strong display of defiance towards Manchester United. The Senegal international has been constantly linked with a move away from the south coast but Koeman says even a world record bid of £100m will not see them part with the forward.
ESPN among other publications understand Louis van Gaal will make Mane one of his principal targets during the New Year window to help quell the club's problems in front of goal. Van Gaal has come under constant criticism for his side's lethargic style of play which sees them on the brink of exiting the Champions League.
Mane has scored six goals and made five assists for Southampton this season but if recent transfer windows are any indication, the St Mary's club should be braced for his imminent departure. But should United attempt to sign the 23-year-old, they will face stubborn resistance.
"No, no, not in January [Mane will be sold]," Koeman said according to Sky Sports. "Already we spoke about that situation. We sell nobody in January. Nobody - not even if they pay £100m.
"I think he can still improve in some cleverness to know what his position is on the pitch, both inside and outside," the Dutch coach added. "I think still he can be more dangerous if he knows exactly the moment to have that movement in the space behind the defenders. In front of the goal he can be more of a scoring player but he is young - 23 years old - and a great player. It is a pleasure to work with him."
Koeman's stance represents a U-turn from Southampton, whose chairman Ralph Krueger had been consigned to the player leaving the club in the summer. Asked about United potentially reigniting their interest after failing in the summer, he said: "Maybe it isn't for players but we're moving towards that and we still understand where we sit in the whole balance of English football and we respect that. We're working hard at every level to ensure we are the final destination but we have to earn that."
With Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial having struggled in front of goal at late, additions to the United front-line appears necessary if the club are to continue to contest for the Premier League title. Manchester City and Arsenal are also in contention and their cutting edge will continue to be scrutinised if they are unable to add to their forward line.