Manchester United had the chance to sign Liverpool defender Virgil Van Dijk when he was still at Southampton but the club passed on him, according to a former Red Devils coach.
René Meulensteen spent 12 seasons at Old Trafford, either side of a one-year stint at Brondby.
Alex Ferguson’s former assistant claims that Man United passed on signing Van Dijk but that Liverpool saw the obvious potential in bringing him to their club.
Van Dijk first arrived in British football in 2013 when he joined Celtic. After impressing for the Scottish champions, the Dutch defender soon moved to Southampton in a £13 million move. In January 2018, he joined Liverpool for £75 million in 2017, a world-record fee for a defender at the time.
Man United are currently being linked with a move for Napoli star Kalidou Koulibaly. However, Meulensteen believes the Senegalese defender has a long way to go before emulating Van Dijk, a player he claims United once passed on signing.
“They never really took the punt, but Liverpool did because they could see the potential that he had but also the speed Van Dijk had, the strength and everything.
“Those are some of the aspects you would look at a really good strong central defender, can he play with some space at the back?
“Everyone’s talking about Koulibaly, bringing him in, but he could go to four or five clubs so it’s not a given that he’ll come.
“For £80 million, a central defender, if you compare that with Van Dijk’s performance for Liverpool last season and this season, then I think Van Dijk is quite a bit ahead.”
While United passed on Van Dijk, they did surpass the world-record fee for a defender when signing Harry Maguire from Leicester City for £80 million in 2019.
However, the England international has come under scrutiny at Old Trafford following a string of underwhelming performances since being made club captain just a few months after joining from Leicester City.
On the topic of centre-backs, Meulensteen made it clear his thoughts that Man United did indeed overspend when bringing Maguire to the club.
“For me, I would probably say £50m, no more than £60m.”