Manchester United made a ‘desperate telephone call’ to Southampton at the last minute to see if Virgil van Dijk was available, only to be told he had completed his medical at Liverpool, according to reports.
Manchester City and Liverpool were the two frontrunners for Van Dijk’s signature when the speculation was building ahead of a proposed exit from St Mary’s, with United – who kept the rumours at arms length – taking up a watching brief.
Van Dijk is now part of a Liverpool team that could be on the verge of their first title in 29 years as they trail City by one point in the Premier League with three matches to go.
Some eyebrows were raised when the Reds purchased Van Dijk for a whopping £75million 16 months ago but it now looks like brilliant business.
And The Times claims that United’s ‘botched move’ was ‘as late and hopeless as their bid to sign Gareth Bale when he left Tottenham Hotspur for Real Madrid’.
The newspaper’s chief sports writer Matt Dickinson reckons it ‘sums up the dysfunction at Manchester United’ currently and that it ‘encapsulates the lack of understanding between manager(s) and board, an absence of vision or even basic planning when it comes to recruitment’.
The report added:
‘Tottenham Hotspur were never going to spend a world-record fee on a defender. Arsenal thought about it but not when the cost jumped above £50 million.
‘At Chelsea, Antonio Conte was very keen but the club’s hierarchy would not sanction the outlay which, not for the first or last time at Stamford Bridge, worsened the rift between manager and board.
‘City had Van Dijk high on their list but it was a list that also included Aymeric Laporte, who has done much to justify the £57 million fee that took him to Manchester from Athletic Bilbao, while not matching the Dutchman’s huge influence.’