STUART Armstrong never expected he would just walk into Saints’ first-team after his summer arrival from Celtic.

Armstrong made his Premier League debut on the opening day of the season against Burnley and was then benched for the following six games.

Most people wouldn’t blame him for scratching his head wondering why he made the move down south, but he always knew it would be difficult to begin with.

The Scottish international said: “To make your start in the Premier League in the first game of the season was obviously an enjoyable moment for me.

“But having to wait for that second start was frustrating, especially being in a new environment

“I tried to be patient and work hard in training to get back into the team and once you are back, you want to stay there.

“The challenge for me was to get into the team and to make sure I made a positive impact when I did.

“That’s the same at any team. I had that at Celtic where I had to work hard to get back into the team.

“The same could be said for here. The quality and depth of the squad means there are no easy selection picks.

“You have to fight every day for your spot.

“I think the chance of coming to Southampton and to play in the Premier League has never left me since I joined.

“Having only been involved for six months, I can see what a great club it is and how nice it is to be here as a Southampton player.”

Armstrong forced his way back into Mark Hughes’ plans for the 1-1 draw with Watford before the international break.

He then went on to be an integral part of Scotland’s historic results in the Uefa Nations League and was riding the crest of a wave on his return to Saints.

The midfielder bagged a brace at Fulham to open his goalscoring account for the south coast side and then had another solid game in the defeat to Leicester.

And Armstrong puts his upturn in form down to featuring more regularly, although admitted it’s not been easy to cope with the demands.

“I think that helped,” Armstrong added.

“I really enjoyed the Watford game at home and I felt positive after that going into the Scotland games.

“It helped with my confidence and fitness to get some more minutes going into the Fulham game.

“But having been out of the squad for so long and then coming back in and playing those four games, with all the travelling in between, took its toll.”

Saints’ hectic December starts today with the visit of Manchester United before games against Tottenham and Cardiff in the space of a week.

For Armstrong, going in as the side no one expects to win has been something he has struggled to wrap his head around.

But he knows just how much it would mean for Saints if they were to get a result against Man United this evening.

Armstrong added: “At Celtic you were used to controlling games and having possession and getting the results.

“But the Premier League is a different animal altogether.

“You need to fight for every single game and point and that’s been one of the biggest challenges so far.

“We are no under illusions that they are a quality side with excellent individuals.

“Ultimately, we have belief in ourselves that we can go up against the big teams and get positive results.

“Regardless of who the opponent is, a win is a win and we need to give the supporters something back.

“I think the fans have been great – especially of late.

“Against Leicester we were unfortunate to go out but at the end they were still singing and that meant a lot to us as players.

“If we can give something back to them, that would be great.”

Since his return to Hughes’ starting 11, Armstrong has struck up a partnership with fellow midfielders Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Mario Lemina.

They both allow the 26-year-old to have more freedom at the end of the pitch where he is most effective, as was evident with his display against Fulham.

“I think you have two players who are naturally a bit deeper and more controlling in the sense of Pierre and Mario who do it so well.” Armstrong explained.

“Then you have the players in front of them who like to attack more and are creative and like to move around in those forward positions. It’s a nice balance.”