Morgan Schneiderlin believes Jay Rodriguez was assured of a ticket to the World Cup before injury threatened to wreck his dreams of Brazil.
The forward’s hopes of making it into Roy Hodgson’s squad this summer were cast into significant doubt when his knee buckled as he hit the floor in a sickening moment at the Etihad Stadium.
The timing could barely have been crueller for Rodriguez, who has been in the best form of his life this season, and particularly in the past few months.
With five goals in his previous four games before the 4-1 defeat at Manchester City, his case for a place at the World Cup had gathered significant momentum.
Schneiderlin was confident that Rodriguez had already done enough to secure a seat on the plane, but the midfielder fears that his teammate could now lose the spot.
However, he is keeping his fingers crossed that the results of a scan on the injury, which is expected to happen early this week, will not be as bad as expected.
“Listen, my point of view is he had the tickets already in his pocket and an injury was the only thing that could have taken the ticket out of his pocket,” he said.
“It’s such a shame. I just hope the scan is going to say something nice, and I hope he’s going to be back on the pitch as soon as possible.
“It’s something that’s very hard to take for any footballer, but especially for Jay.”
Schneiderlin added: “We lost the game, but the worst thing was to lose Jay.
“Ok, we’re losing him as a footballer, but we’re also losing him as a human and as a presence in the changing room.
“It’s a joy to be with him every day in training, because he’s such a guy who enjoys life, who laughs every time. He’s such a nice guy.
“Of course, we wish to him and his family the best and we want him to come back as soon as possible, because we need him.
“It is a sad day.”
Like all of the Saints staff and players, Schneiderlin was upset at the officials’ failure to spot an obvious offside in the build-up to City’s vital second goal, although he said they should perhaps have responded better to the injustice.
“We were very down, we can say at half-time, especially when we conceded the second goal,” said the 24-year-old. “It was against the flow of the game.
“We did everything very well.
“We did everything right, and then the ref, I don’t know how he can’t see an offside like that, but that’s part of the game.
“I just think that, from our point of view, we can’t let a referee’s decision affect us so much.
“We need to work even harder in the next couple of games and the next training to improve on those kind of things.”
Schneiderlin, right, added: “We’re going to keep in our mind the first half, and we’re happy about that.
“But then again we need to improve on those small things if you want to get in the top seven, top six.”