If you were to identify the breakthrough moment for Sadio Mané at Southampton and in English football, it would hard not to pinpoint last season’s trip to Crystal Palace.
Saints visited Selhurst Park on Boxing Day, storming to a much-needed 3-1 win on the back of a dynamic and destructive performance from Mané.
The Senegal international, who had arrived as a wide player at the end of the 2014 summer transfer window from Austrian side Red Bull Salzburg, started in a central position for the first time since joining the club and proved too much to handle for Palace, bursting through to open the scoring in the first half, before setting up his side’s second goal after the interval, for Ryan Bertrand.
"My memory of this game is that it was fantastic,” Mané told youtube.com/southamptonfc ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Selhurst Park.
“It was a very good game and the performance of the team was fantastic. Finally we won 3-1 and I hope this week too we are going to win and it will be the same.”
Mané, who would score against Chelsea and Arsenal in his following two matches, admitted his first few months in the Premier League had been tough, as he adapted to his new surroundings, but he agreed the trip to Palace represented an important moment in his development.
“It was not easy at the beginning,” said the 23-year-old. “The Premier League is not easy, and I think it's also important for a player to score, because it is good for the confidence and for the team.
“It was good. It was not easy, because it was the first time in Southampton to play in the number ten position. Finally I get a goal for the team.
"After Boxing Day, I think the next following games I scored for the team, and I think it will be the same this season too – why not?”
Indeed, this season Mané is already well on the way to breaking his goal tally from last term, with seven strikes in the current campaign compared to the ten he bagged in 2014/15.
He said: "Last season I scored ten goals and this season at the moment I think I am going to score more goals for my team, and why not more than ten?
"I think this is the dream of every player, to get better and better and I feel myself that I'm getting better also.
"Now it's my second year in England and I think everything is going well for me and I am happy. I know the league now and I think this season is more easier than last season, because this was my first year and first time in the Premier League.
“Now I know how we play, how is the system of every team. We have many games left and I think we are going to do our best.”
Mané sees similarities between tomorrow’s trip to Palace and the one last season, when Saints, who are currently without a win in their last four, were also recovering from a dip in form during December.
"It's a little bit similar I can say,” he said. “Now everybody knows what has happened here now and no excuses, we just have to keep working and win games, starting Saturday, because it's an important game.
"Every player likes to win and nobody likes to lose and our situation now is not easy. But it's football and we have to accept it.
“The only solution we have to change this is to work hard and give your best in the game.”