A week after his 20th birthday, Michael Obafemi became a household name in Premier League last night. An 96th minute equaliser at Old Trafford will tend to do that.
Back in December, Obafemi was in the headlines because of some surprising remarks made about him by the Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl back in December when the then 19-year-old made his first appearances of the season.
He still has a lack of professionalism in his whole life.
This is a young guy who must learn quickly. If he does this and gets more physical, fit and can make this workload for a longer time, then he has a big future.
There is still a long way to go for him.
He knows it, I know it and you don’t have to know it.
Since then, Obafemi has been regularly involved with the Saints in a three man striking rotation of himself, Shane Long and Che Adams for the place alongside Danny Ings in the starting 11. Before last night, he had started or come on in 17 Premier League games this season, scoring two goals, including his goal of the month contender against Chelsea over Christmas.
Michael Obafemi GOAL against Chelsea. pic.twitter.com/4VE8wYVDgv
— Press Record Videos (@PressRecordVid) December 28, 2019
Just two weeks ago though, his manager once again publicly criticised his young striker, questioning his "workload."
Without workload as a striker, you have no chance to play, especially in our team.
This is something he has to learn, especially when he gets the chances to play two games a week.
It’s always a problem that we have to pay attention to his physicality as he’s had injuries in the past and we really have to take care of him.
But that doesn’t mean in the second game that he can rest on the pitch. It’s important that he knows he has to invest a lot because if he doesn’t it’s not good.
Last night, the Austrian gave an interview to Sky Sports after the game where he hinted that maybe Obafemi had answered his call.
'It felt great!' 🤩
Ralph Hasenhüttl praised Michael Obafemi's impact after his late goal rescued a point for Southampton at Old Trafford. 🔥😇 pic.twitter.com/1r53BgMbhc
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) July 13, 2020
Speaking in the press conference, Hasenhuttl was equally short on words in praise of the Irish striker.
“Absolutely, I’m happy for him because it’s not always easy. But to come in today and to score is fantastic, I’m very happy for him.”
It will be interesting to see if Obafemi is rewarded with more game time in Southampton's next match against Brighton on Thursday night.
Meanwhile, Will Smallbone was brought off the bench in the same game, impressing in midfield as Southampton dominated possession in the latter stages, chasing the equaliser. The performance drew praise from Southampton fans online.
How good was Smallbone when he came in tonight. Looked like he'd been playing in the league for 10 years, such composure from a young man #SaintsFC
— Mark (Sparky) Robins (@markrobins300) July 13, 2020
No way we play an unchanged side again... Smallbone impressed, I'd like to see him start next game #SaintsFC
— Saint Harris (@LHarrisSFC) July 13, 2020
Smallbone has changed the match back into our favor since he came on. Would love to see Ralph give him a start against Brighton on Thursday. #SaintsFC
— Ian Thompson (@ianthompson08) July 13, 2020