English Premiership

Saints eye top four finish

2015-01-12 08:14
Ronald Koeman (Supplied)
Ronald Koeman (Supplied)

London - Considered relegation fodder at the start of the season, then written off again after a woeful run near the end of the year, Southampton have enjoyed proving people wrong all season.

Now, after Sunday's 1-0 victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford, few doubters will surely remain.

After a mass exodus of key players and staff during the close season, many expected Southampton to struggle after their eighth-place finish in the previous campaign.

Yet Ronald Koeman, who arrived as manager from Feyenoord in June, envisaged no such problems.

Southampton made a flying start to the season and were hot on the heels of early leaders Chelsea before dropping off the pace after a run of six matches without a win.

Many suspected four straight league defeats would initiate an unstoppable slide, especially with niggling doubts about their squad strength, but the Saints have fought back and are now unbeaten in their last five league games.

Their success has been built on an intelligent brand of football that tolerates no superstars or inflated egos.

Against United, defenders Nathaniel Clyne, Jose Fonte, Florin Gardos and Ryan Bertrand stood strong to ensure Louis van Gaal's expensively-assembled forward line never had a shot on target.

At the other end, Dusan Tadic kept a cool head to score the winner, showing why the Saints are genuine Champions League contenders.

"If you play against a big side you need spirit and quality but you also need belief in yourself and your team mates and we showed that," Koeman told Sky Sports.

"We have had good organisation all season, we have 11 clean sheets in 21 games and that is key to being successful.

"We have aspirations (of securing a European finish), but at the beginning of the season you have to wait. Now we can say we fight for a European place."

Glenn Hoddle, who managed the Saints from 2000-2001, believes victory at Old Trafford will give Koeman's side confidence for the rest of the season.

"This will give them massive belief," Hoddle said.

"I think they are a group of players now that believe they are good enough to get in the top four. I have a sneaky idea they will make the top four because of the belief they have now."

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