Jack Ross says he is under no pressure from Sunderland owner Stewart Donald to sell Josh Maja this month after the striker turned down the contract extension on the table.
The Scot was keen to stress that Maja - out of contract in the summer - has not asked to leave the club, he just hasn't signed the deal on offer at the moment.
Club officials remain hopeful the 20-year-old could be persuaded to stay but the reality is that the Black Cats may have to cash in on him this month if the situation doesn't change.
Ross is eager to keep Maja's services until the end of the season at least given he is the club's 15-goal top scorer but concedes it is still early in the window and anything could happen.
He is though, as things stand, not under any pressure from above to sell Maja.
Speaking after Sunderland's 1-1 draw with Charlton Athletic at The Valley, Ross told the Echo: "I have been consistent in my communication publicly about my relationship with Josh, how I would view him from a football perspective regardless of whether he signed a new contract or not.
“Today just showed that I will continue to be consistent, I selected him, he played well and he contributed to us getting a point.
“I will continue to do that until the situation changes.
“You have to temper it with the fact that at the moment he has chosen not to sign a new contract, he hasn’t asked to leave the club.
“They are two very different things.
“People should take that on board, it can get forgotten about.
“He has not, for one moment, came and said to me he doesn’t want to be here. What he has done is not chosen to take the option of extending his contract as things stand.
“They are two very different things.”
When asked about the warm reception from the away fans and how hopeful he is Maja will stay and what happens next, Ross added: "I was pleased with the reception, his performance deserved that as do his performances to date this season.
“Football is a very emotive industry, I get that, it is what makes it so interesting for people and to be keen to be in it.
“But sometimes you have to understand it is people’s lives, careers, their choices. In terms of what happens next? I would just continue as is..
“The situation, there is no duress upon us at the moment, to get rid of him or anything like, from the owner or my perspective as a manager.
“I would hope that would continue to be the case as he is an asset to me on the pitch.
“Being incredibly selfish, I would like him to be here until the end of the season so I can utilise him as a player and as a goalscorer.
“I might not get that option, we have a number of days left in January, we will have to see what transpires in the rest of the month.”
Ross again confirmed he had not been told Maja has to be sold this month, when asked saying simply: "No."
The Sunderland boss added: "The fans showed an understanding, his performance today and his contribution over the course of the season.
“I get how passionate they are about the club and also understand why you could take it as a lack of commitment to the club, but as I mentioned it is important to stress he has not asked to leave the club.
“I spoke to him last night to check he was okay, I thought he would be, he was fine.
“If he continues to perform and be committed, he will keep getting that reception and rightly so.
“Anytime you don’t is when fans feel you haven’t played well or been wholly committed.
“I don’t see any reason why that would be the case with Josh.”