Claude Puel admitted he was unsurprised by the nature of Sofiane Boufal’s match-winner against Sunderland in the EFL Cup.
The Morrocan marked his full Saints debut with a world-class strike against the Black Cats, though Puel expected nothing less from his club-record summer signing.
“For me, it’s not a surprise to see his goal because I know Sofiane,” explained the manager.
“His goal is fantastic, of course, and it was very important for the squad because if we had to play 30 minutes in extra time it would have been very hard for us.
“For the moment, he’s not at 100% physical level but it’s important to stay patient with him and step-by-step he can come back at a good physical level.
“It was hard for him to play 90 minutes, but there is no other way replicate that.”
Saints fielded six Academy players to help see them through to the final eight of the EFL Cup.
And the French manager was also full of praise for the contribution of his youngest players.
“All the Academy players played with enthusiasm and energy,” he continued.
“Sometimes without experience and maturity, but that is normal. It was a little difficult for me on the bench to speak with them and give them direction because they lack the understanding of our structure.
“But with the energy they can – and did - do a good job to adjust. These sorts of games will be important for them in their future development.”