Virgil van Dijk rubs salt in the wounds of Man Utd transfer snub with fresh comments
Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag saw his demands carried out for much of his first window in charge, with six players arriving to help start the first stage of his Old Trafford rebuild.
Virgil van Dijk believes Jurrien Timber is already further along than he was at the same point of their respective careers.
The Liverpool star has become one of the best defenders in world football, emphatically repaying the £75million Kop bosses splashed out on him in 2018. And Van Dijk believes his international teammate is already further along the path – in what will serve as a bitter blow to those of a Manchester United persuasion.
Erik ten Hag identified the 21-year-old as one of the top targets for his first window as United boss. The Dutchman would end the window having signed two players from Ajax in Lisandro Martinez and Antony, as well as landing Tyrell Malacia from Eredivisie rivals PSV.
But his pursuit of Timber proved to be unsuccessful after he decided to stay with the Dutch champions in order to guarantee himself a place at this winter’s World Cup. That decision came after Netherlands boss Louis van Gaal advised the promising youngster to not make the move and suggested it wasn’t wise at this point.
Back in May, the ex-United head coach said: “I think a player of his quality can play in the Premier League. That is not a problem. If he has to make this big step now, that’s the question. It is not so wise I think (to move to United). He has to play.”
Ten Hag made no secret of his admiration for Timber, speaking in glowing terms about his personality during his final season in Amsterdam. “I think that all top clubs in Europe have Timber in their sights. But I think that currently applies to a lot of Ajax players.”
The United boss also said Timber has the potential to become a captain in the future, adding: “He is another great leader that was trained at Ajax. Besides his football skills, he has the personality to become a captain.”
And Van Dijk is another big proponent of Timber’s talents, predicting big things for his compatriot, who he believes is more advanced than he was at the same age.
“I wasn’t nearly as far along as he is now,” Van Dijk explained. “I have nothing but praise for him. He is a great player and a true professional. He has so much potential. Hopefully he can develop further. Then he will be alright, I think.”
Had Timber arrived he would have added even more competition at the back, with Martinez and Malacia already earning themselves starting berths. The former of the two is in the XI at the expense of captain Harry Maguire, who has spoken out for the first time about being dropped by Ten Hag this season.
“I am all good, ready to play, I feel fit and fresh,” Maguire told talkSPORT. “On my form, I don’t know what has been said, I don’t really read about it.
“I came off the back of three positive games with England in the summer, and a good pre-season, I felt really good. Obviously, the manager [Erik ten Hag] decided to leave me out for a game, and the team have been winning since.
“I am working hard on the training pitch to make sure I am ready for when my opportunity comes. That is all I can do to try and help the team.”