Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk knew that Manchester United decided to sign Victor Lindelof instead of him during his time at Southampton back in 2017, according to former Saints attacker Charlie Austin. Van Dijk went on to join Liverpool for a club-record fee of around £75million and has emerged as one of the club’s most influential players during his time at Anfield, winning a number of major honours and establishing himself among the world’s very best defenders in the process.
Things could have ended up very differently for Van Dijk, though, if United had decided to firm up their interest in his services before his eventual move to Merseyside. Austin, who played alongside Van Dijk at Southampton, has revealed that the Red Devils were faced with a choice between the Dutchman and Lindelof that ultimately resulted in the latter making the switch to Old Trafford.
“I remember at the back end of his Southampton career, we were sitting on the bench together at Chelsea away,” Austin told talkSPORT. “I said to him: ‘Come on Virgil, what’s going on? Surely Manchester United must have been in for you?’
“They’re a massive club in England. He said: ‘Do you know what Chaz, in the summer it was between me and Lindelof, and they went for Lindelof.’
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“Nobody knows that. He told me on the bench and I couldn’t believe it. I was gobsmacked.”
United’s decision to reject a move for Van Dijk will go down a blessing in disguise for him with the benefit of hindsight due to the contrasting fortunes between the Red Devils and Liverpool over the last few years. The Merseyside outfit have tasted success both in the Premier League and on the European stage, with Van Dijk having played a major role in shaping their return to the forefront of English football since his arrival in 2018.
Meanwhile, United have struggled to hit the heights of yesteryear following the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson and currently find themselves 21 points and five places adrift of Liverpool in the Premier League table. Austin went on to reveal that Southampton’s then-manager Mauricio Pellegrino was furious with Van Dijk over his desire to move on to bigger and better things and did not make it easy for him during his final few months at the club.
“The manager was Pellegrino at the time and in the summer he [Van Dijk] was looking to go,” explained Austin, who is currently on loan at Queens Park Rangers.
“I remember at the time he got everyone on the pitch, including Virgil, and just came out and said: ‘Look lads, Virgil wants to go, the club aren’t allowing him to go, he said he’s not going to play so he’s not going to train with us.’
“In front of everybody, including Virgil. He was gobsmacked, there was no heads up from the manager, nothing.”
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