Sadio Mané in demand but he should stick with Southampton

Manchester United linked with forward but career may be better served by staying put

As Sadio Mané took his place in the away dugout at Carrow Road on Saturday, he would have found it worthwhile to spend a few moments reflecting on how the players who have left Southampton in the past two summers have fared since getting their dream moves. The breach of discipline that led to a furious Ronald Koeman dropping Mané for the defeat to Norwich City has inevitably set tongues wagging and Manchester United are monitoring the situation , having already inquired about the Senegalese forward's availability last summer.

It is understandable United are interested in a player who would bring pace, directness and skill to a side who have infuriated their supporters with their prosaic play but they would be to wise to think carefully before rushing to do business with Southampton for the third time in the space of 18 months.

A couple of hours before Alex Tettey condemned Southampton to a seventh defeat in their past nine matches, Liverpool lost 2-0 at West Ham United and if Nathaniel Clyne can be excused for losing out in the air to Michail Antonio and Andy Carroll for the goals, then Dejan Lovren deserves criticism for failing to respond to West Ham's ploy of sending physically imposing attackers to pressure a small full-back.

Clyne has been the best of the four players Liverpool have signed from Southampton since 2014 but the £20 million they splurged on Lovren was hefty for a centre-back who regularly fails to dominate forwards. Adam Lallana started on the bench at Upton Park and the midfielder has failed to score in the league this season.

There have been more misses than hits overall. Rickie Lambert plays for West Bromwich Albion now, his year at Anfield an anomaly on his CV. Morgan Schneiderlin is yet to convince fully that he belongs at United, for all his impressive shielding of their defence. Calum Chambers still has a lot to learn at Arsenal and only Luke Shaw was looking like a guaranteed success before United lost him to a broken ankle in September.

Forgiving environment

It can be dangerous to assume that what works in a smaller side is instantly transferable to a less forgiving environment where off days are harder to accept.

Mané and Victor Wanyama were criticised by Koeman after the Norwich defeat. Wanyama was sent off for two brainless yellow cards, and Mané was dropped after turning up late for a team meeting. The indiscipline could force Southampton's hand if there are offers for either player this month.

Whereas Wanyama’s lack of poise on the ball makes him an unsuitable signing for an elite club, Mané’s case is different. He is a forward who has exposed Chelsea’s defensive deficiencies on three occasions, even when they were rock-solid under José Mourinho last season.

Mané is the scorer of the fastest Premier League hat-trick and there is ample time for the 23-year-old to get even better.

Even so, it is still possible to have misgivings. Would Mané be restricted by Louis van Gaal’s straitjacket football? Would a new manager want him? Or is he simply too inconsistent for a club of United’s size? There have only been 13 goals in 50 Premier League appearances for Southampton and he has not scored in the league since 25 October. Mané can be electric. He can also be skittish. As commendable as it is for players to have ambition and for clubs to scour for bargains, Mané would come at a high price. Southampton are not minded to sell this month and it is likely United would have to pay £30 million (€40 million) in the summer.


It raises questions about Old Trafford’s recruitment. If Mané is good enough to play for them now, then surely he was good enough when Southampton signed him for £11.8 million from Red Bull Salzburg 18 months ago. There is a self-defeating tendency for richer clubs to ignore players at that level and let them join mid-ranking sides, only to get too excited about them on the basis of an impressive patch of form a year or two later.

Paying over the odds for the flavour of the month does not enhance the taste. It often has the opposite effect, especially when not enough attention is paid to the side’s balance. Christian Benteke’s toils at Liverpool come to mind.

United would be signing the best attacker from the side who are 13th and, looking at how those former Southampton players are getting on, there would be no harm in Mané continuing his development at St Mary’s.

Something to think about the next time he finds himself running late. Guardian Service