Ronald Koeman has backed Morgan Schneiderlin to be a key player for his side this season after bringing him into the team to face Liverpool.

The French midfielder was keen to join some of his former teammates in getting out of St Mary’s this summer and was even left out of the starting line-up for the final pre-season friendly against Bayer Leverkusen as a result.

However, Schneiderlin has accepted Saints’ decision that he will not be sold and returned to training last week.

Despite an extended break due to his World Cup exploits with France and not having played a single minute in pre-season, Koeman opted to throw Schneiderlin straight into the team at Anfield and believes the 24-year-old will be a vital player in the weeks and months ahead.

“I think it was good for him,” said Koeman.

“You saw it in the last ten minutes that he was tired because it was his first match.

“The competition was starting today, yesterday for the rest, and he’s a player of Southampton.

“He will continue playing for Southampton.

“He changed his mind, he changed his mentality and he showed us that last week and he’s a key player.

“He showed his qualities. He’s a strong and good football player.

“He’s very important for our team and it’s normal for me to put him in the line-up.”

It was very much a new-look Saints side that started at Anfield after all the changes of the summer.

Koeman also had to tinker with his tactics during the game and did so to good effect as Saints became far more effective in the second period.

“We had a lot of changes in the team in pre-season, but we had a good pre-season because we worked hard to our way of playing and how we did the high pressing in the second half was a little bit different to the first half,” said Koeman.

“I think in the first half we lost a lot bit of attention in transition to the attack of Liverpool and they got two chances like that, and one was the goal. It wasn’t good defensive organisation for that moment.

“We didn’t create the opportunities that we did in the second half but in total we played well and we deserved a better result and that gives us a lot of confidence.”