Ronald Koeman claimed he left Graziano Pelle out of Southampton’s 4-2 win against Manchester City because he disappointed in training.
The Saints chief was delighted with his side’s performance at St Mary’s on Sunday afternoon with Sadio Mane’s hat-trick and a Shane Long effort sealing a comfortable win against a City side with one eye on Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final second leg at Real Madrid.
The result kept Saints’ Europa League qualification bid alive, with Tottenham and Crystal Palace left to play in the Premier League.
However Pelle was a notable absence for the hosts and Koeman confirmed it was nothing to do with his fitness.
“I wasn’t happy about the intensity of Graziano in the training sessions this week,” said the Dutchman, issuing an outright challenge to the 30-year-old to sharpen up.
“I like to be straight with everybody: other players were more deserving of being part of the 18 today.
“He knows, and I will see what happens next week.”
City boss Manuel Pellegrini made eight changes from Tuesday’s goalless draw with Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final first leg.
But Koeman insisted Southampton in Sunday’s mood could have produced the same result against City’s strongest starting line-up.
“You can talk about the changes of Man City in the team, but that’s not fair: give all the credit to Southampton because the performance today was fantastic,” said Koeman.
“We’re always confident to beat our opponents, maybe a little more when we’re at home.
“It’s difficult to deal with a Premier League game between two huge games against Ream Madrid. They still need more points to finish fourth but that’s not my responsibility.
“It’s normal that maybe there’s a little bit less focus. It’s a human reaction of players in football, but that doesn’t give enough credit to Southampton.
“Even if City had started with their best team we had possibilities to win, because we were at our best this afternoon.”