• Ronald Koeman explained his decision to bench Ousmane Dembele Thursday
  • The Barcelona coach said the move was just a result of his defensive strategy
  • Manchester United is looking at a possible loan deal for Dembele as an alternative for Jadon Sancho, a report said

Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman defended his decision to bench Ousmane Dembele during Thursday’s win over Celta Vigo at Estadio de Balaidos, saying it was what the situation had called for.

Dembele’s benching comes amid rumors that the Frenchman could be loaned to Manchester United. However, Koeman clarified that his decision to keep the 23-year-old on the sidelines has nothing to do with the talks of a possible transfer. Instead, the Dutch coach simply pointed out holes in the young forward’s defensive game to justify his choice, Goal reported.

"I think Pedri and Trincao can contribute more defensively than Dembele can, that's why they played," Koeman explained.

Koeman spoke about Dembele’s situation during a Wednesday news conference ahead of Barca's match against Celta Vigo. The 57-year-old said that while he is counting on the France international, the future of the youngster is not for him to decide.

"I’m counting on him. He was very good in the first weeks (of pre-season) but he had a downturn last week. He trained well today and I’m counting on him. But these are decisions for the club and the player," the coach said.

An earlier report said that Dembele is being monitored by the Red Devils as a possible alternative if they fail to sign Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho.

Sancho remains the no. 1 transfer target for United. However, Goal’s Charlotte Duncker reported that the Red Devils have yet to submit an official bid to BVB, which has remained adamant in its demand of at least $142 million for the transfer of the 20-year-old star.

And with just a few days left until the transfer deadline, it is becoming more likely that the English club will move on from its bid to acquire Sancho and just focus on its list of alternatives, which include Dembele.

The Guardian’s Fabrizio Romano reported that United is willing to entertain either a straight loan or a loan with an option to buy for Dembele. The club would also have to compensate the former Rennes player in full if a loan deal is completed.

Barcelona signed Dembele for a five-year deal worth about $123 million, plus a reported $47 million in add-ons, in 2017. But despite being a highly touted talent, the Frenchman still struggled to find his mark to become a regular starter at Camp Nou.

 Ousmane Dembele (L) of Barcelona competes for the ball with Axel Witsel of Borussia Dortmund
Ousmane Dembele (L) of Barcelona competes for the ball with Axel Witsel of Borussia Dortmund Getty Images | Pablo Morano