Alex Neil admits Norwich City profited from Sadio Mane’s Southampton spat

Norwich manager Alex Neil was happy to see Sadio Mane on the Southampton bench. Picture by Paul Ches

Norwich manager Alex Neil was happy to see Sadio Mane on the Southampton bench. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Alex Neil admitted Norwich City cashed in on Sadio Mane's surprise absence from the Southampton ranks.

Mane was demoted by Ronald Koeman for a breach of club discipline just hours before the kick-off until a late cameo.

The 23-year-old was an influential figure in City's corresponding 3-0 defeat on the south-coast back in August - but Neil elected not to get embroiled in the Saints' spat.

The Scot had his own disciplinary issue to deal with earlier in the season when Lewis Grabban was fined and banned from the training ground after his disappearing act prior to the Capital One Cup tie at Rotherham.

'Every manager will work in different ways. You would have to ask Ronald about that and he can decide to do what he likes,' said Neil. 'I'm not going to get involved in what I would do in a similar situation.

'I wasn't aware of any disruption, simply that he wasn't in the starting line up when we got the team.

'I don't think there is any question we looked at that quite favourably for our part because for one of their best players not to be in the team of course we were delighted.

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'It didn't change our plan. It was set out from the start. You can't change it because the team sheets have been lodged by that stage and we were always going to operate the way we did.'

Neil's side moved within a point of the Saints, which looked an unlikely scenario when the teams previously met at St Mary's.

'I think it does show how far we have come but the one thing to bear in mind is we went down to 10 men at their place when it was 0-0 and although we hadn't played well you know there are moments when you might get a spell or two,' he said. 'We had a great chance when Cameron Jerome missed a header from six yards before they even scored. Games at this level hinge on fine margins and here we came out the right end of it.

'Am I surprised to be this close to them in the table? No, I didn't see why we couldn't be this close to them at this stage of the season.

'Our aspirations were to get into the mid-table pack as soon as we could, that is where I could see us getting to and hoped we would. I still think we have a bit of work to get there, but we are trying our best.'