Southampton to remain patient on Virgil van Dijk return, says Mauricio Pellegrino
Last Updated: 28/09/17 4:00pm
Southampton will continue to be patient over returning Virgil van Dijk to their starting lineup, says manager Mauricio Pellegrino.
Pellegrino brought Van Dijk on for the final 10 minutes of their 1-0 win over Crystal Palace last week, and he was an unused substitute in the defeat to Manchester United the previous fixture.
Van Dijk has not started a Southampton game for eight months following a long-term ankle injury and submitting a transfer request this summer, but Pellegrino had indicated the 25-year-old was ready to return to face United.
The defender had been strongly linked with a number of other clubs throughout the summer window; most notably Liverpool, who were forced to issue a public apology in June for an improper approach for the Netherlands international defender.
"Little by little he's getting better," said Pellegrino, whose side play at Stoke City on Saturday. "It will be difficult to see the best Virgil in the first game or even the second. We need to be patient.
"After this game we've got two weeks and we'll play a friendly in the middle. I'm happy with his attitude and I'm sure he'll be ready when he does come back.
"When I put a player on the bench it's because I think he's ready to play. The most important thing for Virgil is to play; every single week his timing and mobility is getting better."
Pellegrino was also non-committal over the subject of whether Van Dijk will be restored to the Southampton captaincy after a summer in which he handed in a transfer request at the club.
He said: "Virgil is one of the captains. I will think about it."
Play Super 6
There's £250k up for grabs in this weekend's Super 6. Enter your predictions for free here.