MOHAMMED Salisu impressed manager Ralph Hasenhuttl with a resolute performance against man-in-form Michail Antonio on Saturday, but the boss insists: “He is not in Vestergaard’s department with the ball, but we want to improve him.”

The 22-year-old Ghanaian centre-back has started all four Premier League matches this season and, alongside Jack Stephens, earned his first clean sheet of the campaign with the 0-0 draw against West Ham.

Salisu had to wait patiently for chances after arriving in a multi-million pound move from Spanish outfit Real Valladolid last August, but looks to have made a position his own in Saints’ side.

After not featuring until February, Salisu was only absent for four of the remaining games – although he didn’t keep a single Premier League clean sheet, missing the Sheffield United 2-0 victory in March.

But he starred at the back against a free-firing Hammers, who had scored 10 goals in their first three before that run ended with the sight of Antonio walking down the tunnel a few moments early the crowning moment for a resilient defence.

But Hasenhuttl thinks he does still need to improve in areas, despite his continued faith in the young defender, saying: “I must say that on a man he is very strong, in the duels he is very nasty because this is his game.

“He still has to improve his game with the ball I think because we see that can be much better but we are going slowly this way, yeah, it’s not something you learn from one day to the other.

“We force him to play more football, he didn’t do it so much in his career so far, but this is what we want. He is not in Vestergaard’s department with the ball but we want to improve him.

“And finally I’m happy for the guys, both centre-backs, to get their first clean sheet this season, and Alex (McCarthy) also, he did a very good job and this is how it should be.”

Antonio was the key battle that made Salisu stand out, but Hammers’ attacking options don’t end there – exciting forwards Jarrod Bowen and Said Benrahma were both frequently locked in battle with the Ghanaian.

Saints could have had a breakthrough at the other end with exciting on-loan striker Armando Broja coming close twice, via a strike that cannoned off the post and a headed effort that required a goal-line intervention.

If either of those moments had come off, you could be picking out Salisu’s dominance in the physical battles as the bastion of a first three points of 2021-22 season for Saints.

Hasenhuttl added: “Absolutely yes, this (physicality) is the key why I decided to give him the chance again against him (Antonio).

“Yes, we have seen this in pre-season that he has these qualities and we have this first game where we stop him, and it’s good to see.”