Southampton manger Mark Hughes was full of prais for teenage duo Michael Obafemi and Yan Valery ahead of his side’s Premier League clash with Manchester United at St Mary’s on Saturday.
The talented youngsters were handed their full Saints debuts in the Carabao Cup defeat against Leicester City at the King Power Stadium on Wednesday night, and they made a big impact and showed that they are more than capable of stepping up to the plate.
They could be required again for the visit of the Red Devils with Danny Ings, Shane Long and Matt Targett all absent and Ryan Bertrand a major doubt, but what did the Welsh manager’s comments about them really mean?
Speaking to the press, as quoted by the Daily Echo, the 55-year-old said:
“On the night they came through it with flying colours. If we need them at the weekend I have no qualms about putting them in again.
“The one thing you want from young players when you do introduce them is that they play with no fear, with energy, they play with enthusiasm and that can be picked up by the senior lads as well.
“I think that happened on Tuesday and the senior players really looked after the guys as well and were encouraged by the way they were playing.”
While Hughes was clearly keen to praise two youngsters that earned and took their opportunity against the Foxes, the Welshman was surely also taking a dig at some of his senior players by saying that they lack enthusiasm.
One player this could relate to is Oriol Romeu who missed out on the 18-man squad at the King Power before appearing for the U23s the following day, while Valery and Obafemi were selected over Cedric Soares and Charlie Austin respectively following another poor display from the duo at Craven Cottage last weekend.
The former in particular didn’t show a great attitude and mentality in interviews that suggested he knew that Southampton were going to concede even when they took the lead, while Austin barely touched the ball and his movement was particularly poor in the capital.