RALPH Hasenhuttl’s told his Saints side to “fight like lions” at Old Trafford on Monday.

Manchester United are on a barnstorming run, winning their last four matches by at least three goals, becoming the first side to achieve such a feat in the Premier League era.

This prompted Saints’ boss to encourage his players to fight fire with fire at the Theatre of Dreams.

Describing Manchester United, Hasenhuttl said: “Absolutely fantastic team and they have at the moment an unbelievable run and this is exactly what we like the most because then we can see how good we are, and we can go into this challenge and be competitive against such an opponent. 

“This is exactly the challenge we need. If we want to get better, we need to challenge against such teams. We can learn a lot. 

“I think against Manchester City we learned a lot about how good they are in possession and what they can do - we need these games

“I once said that if you want to be lion then you have to fight with lions, and I think this is exactly what we are looking for, we want to have this battle against these teams.

“This is special in the Premier League and they are at the moment really strong, yes.’’ 

Talk of battling for a Europa League place next season has ramped up since Saints returned from the break in excellent form.

They’ve beaten Norwich, Man City and Watford during Project Restart and have winnable games against Brighton, Bournemouth and Sheffield United still to come.

However, Hasenhuttl put any talk of a European challenge to bed.

“We don't care about the position at the moment,” he added.

“We look at our game and we see all the things we still can develop and we have, especially in possession, made some good progress really in the last weeks and this development convinces us we are on the right way.

“But being in a European spot? It’s a long way as long way to go. 

“It doesn't make sense to think about it, it makes more sense to think about things you really can change from one day to the next one and all the energy we use for this.’’