MX23RW : Tuesday, February 19 03:15:50

Hughes shrugs off speculation as Saints struggle

Hughes shrugs off speculation as Saints struggle
© Reuters
The Saints boss is under increasing scrutiny.

Defiant Southampton manager Mark Hughes is not going to take any notice of the continued speculation over his future.

Hughes is under increasing scrutiny following a poor run of Premier League form which has left his team in the bottom three.

On Tuesday night, Southampton went out of the Carabao Cup following a penalty shoot-out defeat against Leicester.

Hughes, though, issued a rallying cry as he prepared the squad for Saturday's home match against Manchester United.

"It is what a lack of positive results brings," the Southampton manager said at a press conference reported by the club.

"In this day and age sometimes there are media outlets that find it is in their interest to try and set the agenda, when really it is not backed up by the actual facts and reality of the situation within the club.

"We have to deal with that. But the truth of the matter is, and I have said this for several weeks, if you gain good results, the pressure goes away to somebody else."

Hughes continued: "I am not the only manager in charge of a football club which is down at the bottom (of the league) and maybe is underachieving at the moment, I just seem to be getting the brunt of the speculation, rightly or wrongly.

"But I have been in the game a long time. It doesn't faze me and actually makes me want to excel even more... that is the message I give to the players."

Hughes is looking to use the negativity as a positive to move the squad forwards and climb the Premier League table, having fought so hard to stay up following his arrival towards the end of last season.

"We are very, very close, we have said that now for a number of weeks and we still believe that," said Hughes, whose side went down 3-2 at Fulham last weekend.

"If you look at the effort and motivation of the group, you can see that in their play.

"The pressure will build until we get maximum points from Premier League games, but we are not very far away."

Hughes insists the speculation over his reported replacements is "water off a duck's back".

He added: "I know how this game works. It is not a problem, it is people doing their business, but it is when it is a little bit obvious and when people try to set the agenda for the benefit of themselves that is when I rile against it.

"It is not challenging, because I feel we have good potential here, with players working exceptionally hard to get results."

Tackling United, whatever form they may be in, is probably not the fixture Hughes would want to kickstart Southampton's season.

However, the former Red Devils frontman will meet the challenge head on. He said: "It is an opportunity for us and is not one we should be apprehensive about. We have got to be really positive."

Forward Danny Ings remains unavailable because of a hamstring problem, while Ryan Bertrand will be monitored on a back issue.

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