The Virgil van Dijk lesson Manchester United must repeat to complete Declan Rice transfer – George Smith

It was just over five years ago, at the beginning of 2017, that Liverpool’s recruitment team put their heads together and settled on the missing ingredient that they knew would help them end their pursuit of their first-ever Premier League title.

They decided that they needed to sign Virgil van Dijk from Southampton as a matter of urgency. Although they wanted him, they knew, deep down, the truth was that they needed him. That was the difference.

The scouting department had done all of the necessary checks and examinations on the Dutchman and decided that he was the man that they knew would help move them move one step closer to standing on the top step of English football’s podium.

Having settled on the Dutchman, who has, of course, since transformed Liverpool’s fortunes and helped them win their maiden Premier League title, plus a sixth Champions League crown, claims emerged that Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp had held discussions with Van Dijk before the Reds had even made official contact with Southampton.

A whole load of drama, including Southampton reporting Liverpool to the Premier League, and statements followed, but, ultimately, the Merseyside club got their man, confirming they had reached a £75million agreement with the Saints just days before everyone prepared to flip their calendars over to introduce 2018.

It was a bumpy road that Liverpool had navigated to ensure Van Dijk swapped St Mary’s for Anfield, but, in the end, they got the deal done.

It was mission accomplished.

Although it had taken the best part of 12 months, plus an embarrassing climbdown from Liverpool following their initial movements in an attempt to get the deal over the line, patience had paid off. Klopp had what he needed and Van Dijk immediately began to repay Liverpool for their patience.

He became an instant hit at Anfield and the difference he made to their defense was abundantly clear, so much so that almost everyone that mocked the £75million transfer fee was forced to complete a climbdown of their own.

Virgil Van Dijk has proven to be an excellent signing for Liverpool.
Virgil Van Dijk has proven to be an excellent signing for Liverpool.

That kind of patience is rare in football, not just with transfer dealings, but also with the futures of managers, when supporters are desperate for the chairman to pull the trigger when a bad run of results are encountered. However, it can be vital, as it shows that believing in something so much can be worthwhile.

And that is something Manchester United should remember as far as their pursuit of West Ham United midfielder Declan Rice is concerned. The Reds have been long-term admirers of the Hammers and England ace and, as reported by the Manchester Evening News back in September, have pinpointed him as their number one transfer target to strengthen their midfield ahead of this coming summer.

In recent weeks, several alternative midfield options have been linked with moves to United, including the likes of RB Leipzig’s Amadou Haidara, Aurelien Tchouameni of AS Monaco and more recently Leicester City midfielder Youri Tielemans. It is, however, important to remember that a club of United’s stature will always be linked with high-profile players, most of which is agent-driven to get their clients in the shop window.

While there is no disputing that the aforementioned players are of great quality and are highly talented, United have long since identified Rice as their preference to strengthen their holding midfield options. The England midfielder is their top target, he is somebody they have discussed extensively, including the framework for how they could construct a deal to lure him to Old Trafford, and the supporters want him.

West Ham, as has been well documented, are set to demand at least £100million to even contemplate the idea of ​​selling their star asset, meaning it will cost United a small fortune. However, the Reds have long since decided that he is what they need to try and help them return to the position they want to be in. Why should they change that stance, other than if finances say it is not possible to get a deal done?

In recent years, too many transfers that United have completed have backfired; Angel Di Maria, Alexis Sanchez and Donny van de Beek have all failed to have the desired impact.

It is not always easy for any club to stick to their guns in a transfer window, especially when supporters demand new signings like they’re going out of fashion.

But given recent links with Tielemans and others, United must stand their ground and stick to their plan of prioritizing the signing of Rice, even if it means playing a waiting game. Frustrations may threaten to boil over, but the wait could be worth it.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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