Former Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has revealed how close Sadio Mane came to joining the Old Trafford club before his move to Liverpool from Southampton.
The now-Bayern Munich forward was a revelation on the South Coast after moving to the Premier League from Red Bull Salzburg in 2014. In two seasons at the St Mary’s, he netted 25 goals across 75 outings in all competitions, and helped Southampton achieve their highest-ever Premier League finish in 2015/16 (sixth), and their best-ever points total that same season (63).
Such form naturally alerted the division’s perennial heavyweights, and in 2016, Mane completed a £34m move to Liverpool. And the rest, as they say, is history. In six trophy-laden years at Anfield, Mane formed a near-telepathic relationship with Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino as Jurgen Klopp’s famed attacking trident cut defences across the continent to ribbons.
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Under the auspices of Klopp on Merseyside, the 91-capped Senegal international helped the Reds win their first Premier League title, and the 2018/19 Champions League. The FA Cup, League Cup, Super Cup and Club World Cup were all also claimed by Senegal’s trophy-hoarding superstar.
In that same timeframe, Man Utd have been somewhat stuck in limbo, unable to consistently challenge for the Premier League title, and going through managers at a concerning rate. A player of Mane’s final-third presence certainly would have gone a long way to stabilising the on-field performances of Man Utd since 2016, and Van Gaal has now revealed how close he actually came to capturing him.
“Sadio Mane is a true team player and this is the reason why I really wanted to sign him (at Manchester United). These are difficult players to play against,” Van Gaal told Dutch outlet NOS.
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Mane himself has previously reflected on how he actually “agreed” to join Man Utd, before a phone call with Klopp swayed his decision.
Mane said in May: “I have to say, I was really close to going to Manchester United. I had the contract there. I had it all agreed.
“It was all ready, but instead I thought, ‘No, I want to go to Liverpool’. I was convinced to go with Klopp’s project. I still remember the first time I got the call from Klopp.
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“I was watching TV. It was an action movie – because I love movies – and he said, ‘Sadio, listen, I want to explain to you what happened at Dortmund’.
“That was when he thought of signing me for Dortmund and for some reason it didn’t work out. He tried to explain and I said, ‘it’s okay, it happened’. I forgave him.
“Then he said, ‘now I want you at Liverpool’. And I said, ‘Okay, Dortmund is behind us, let’s focus on the future’.
“He said, ‘We have a big project at Liverpool and I want you to be part of it’. Then he asked what position I wanted, because he could see at Southampton I played on the right side and I used to play on the left.
“I said I prefer left, and then he said, ‘but Coutinho is on the left!’ So I said, never mind, I will play on the right. I could see myself in all the positions.”