Mauricio Pellegrino: Focus set on January transfer window after pleasing end to year

Mauricio Pellegrino made his intentions to boost his Southampton squad in January very clear, after they ended 2017 on a positive note by holding Manchester United to a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford on Saturday evening.

The Saints were comfortable for most of the match despite major alterations to their defence, which was without the injured Ryan Bertrand and Cédric Soares, as well as the Liverpool-bound £75m man Virgil van Dijk.

Brilliantly bounced back from Boxing Day thumping by Spurs

Pellegrino gave credit to his team before transfer talk though, stating how pleased he was about their attitude to bounce back from such a blow, in the form of a 5-2 Boxing Day mauling at Wembley Stadium:

“Yes, for sure [I'm happy with the result]. We are really pleased, not just for the point but we are happy because our performance was really good. I think our performance from the beginning until the end, especially in the way that we approached the game, was really focused with attitude and personality.

"I think Manchester United were never comfortable on the pitch and that’s something that reflects on the job we did on and off the ball.

"We waited for the moment to try and score a goal but the Premier League continues, in midweek we have another massive game and we have to try and use this game as a base to grow and improve in different areas. I’m really happy with my players."

Alex McCarthy impresses on first Premier League appearance in nearly two years

The Southampton manager made a surprise decision prior to kick-off, ending Fraser Forster's run of 76 consecutive Premier League appearances by bringing in backup goalkeeper Alex McCarthy, who hadn't featured in the league since March 2016 for Crystal Palace.

The risk certainly paid off though, and with Forster showing poor form for the majority of the 2017-18 campaign, questions were raised about McCarthy's chances of becoming first-choice:

“It’s the same as when I change my players, because I want to give the opportunity to others and Alex McCarthy had to show his capacity and quality on the pitch.

"Obviously, the goalkeeper is a special position but most of my players have had their opportunity in the Premier League and nobody can complain about that. Just one or two players haven’t played, but most of them have had the opportunity to play.

“In football, nothing is fixed and everything is changing all of the time, the reality today will change tomorrow. I always try to use the moment of the player that I feel is better and give them an opportunity to show how they are on the pitch.”

Cagey about Alex McCarthy's chances of playing more regularly after helping Southampton to a first clean sheet in 12 outings, but Pellegrino didn't hold back on praise for the 28-year-old:

“I think he was good. He was calm and always showed personality on a very difficult day, especially at the end of the first half. But, I think the defensive job in general as a team was really good.”

January incomings seem a certainty

Southampton centre-back Virgil van Dijk became the most expensive defender in the world earlier on in the week as Liverpool paid £75m for his services, but Mauricio Pellegrino isn't using the inevitable move as a fresh start, stating that "every week is an opportunity to improve."

With the January transfer window literally a day away and the Saints' season not exactly going to plan so far, it was always expected that they'd be dipping into the market for new talent next month, and the manager confirmed those expectations:

"We now have to think about the future now and try to bring in a couple of targets to try and improve our squad. In six months’ or one years’ time, maybe we can talk about say if this was positive or not but for this, we have to wait.

“We never know [how easy it'll be to get targets], because I can’t control the market. It’s not easy in December, because it’s not easy to bring in an important player at this time, but I think we have some opportunities and have to be ready.”