Manchester United legend Andy Cole says he would have been Virgil van Dijk’s ‘worst nightmare’ as a player after Dutchman’s stuttering start to the season and claims the Liverpool defender ‘doesn’t like chasing back’
- Man United icon Andy Cole says Virgil van Dijk has shown weakness this season
- The Dutch centre-back has looked off the pace at Liverpool in recent games
- He played the full 90 minutes as the Reds were thumped 7-2 by Aston Villa
- Cole believes he would have relished going up against him when he was a player
- The former striker pointed out how Van Dijk is often reluctant to track back
The Dutchman has become known as one of the best centre-backs in world football after some dominant performances under Jurgen Klopp in recent years, and he was pivotal to their Premier League title triumph last season.
But this term the 29-year-old has looked off the pace and has put in some suspect displays, with Liverpool conceding three against Leeds in the season opener and then slumping to a 7-2 defeat against Aston Villa last time out.
Manchester United legend Andy Cole says he would relish going up against Virgil van Dijk
He said the Liverpool defender has shown weaknesses recently after a poor start to the season
And Cole, who is third in the Premier League’s all time scorers list with 187 – with 93 coming for United – says that while he still rates van Dijk highly, he has started to show vulnerabilities, including a reluctance to track back.
‘Van Dijk is a really good player, but I’m the kind of individual who would love to have played against him – and I feel like I would have got to him,’ he told Sunday World.
‘You want to test yourself against the best and he is the best at the moment, without a doubt, but I like to look at defenders and find weaknesses in them and we have seen a few with Van Dijk in the last few months.
Cole believes the Dutchman doesn’t like chasing back and that strikers are getting in behind
‘I watched him in the opening game of the season against Leeds and the strikers who give him problems are the ones who run in behind him and stretch him. They scored three goals that day and he didn’t look like he enjoyed the experience.’
Cole believes he would have been van Dijk’s ‘worst nightmare’ if he came up against him in his prime and warned that top flight strikers may be alerted to his weakness in future games if he doesn’t adapt.
‘He is a Rolls Royce of a defender, but he didn’t like putting his foot down and chasing back when people were getting in behind him.
‘That’s what I would have done all day when I was at my best, so I would probably have been his worst nightmare if I was playing against him.’
He claimed he would be van Dijk’s ‘worst nightmare’ if he played against him in his prime
He is regarded as one of the best defenders in the world and was crucial to Liverpool’s title win
Van Dijk has started all four league games under Klopp this season, scoring in the 4-3 win over Leeds last month and looking mostly untroubled in victores against Chelsea and Arsenal.
But former Gunners defender Sol Campbell believes he may be getting complacent after winning so many plaudits in recent years and suggested he is not being challenged enough.
‘I know Van Dijk struggled in the Villa game, but he stands out these days because he’s head and shoulders above everyone else, which makes me wonder if that is hampering him at the same time,’ he told the Athletic.
The centre-back played the full 90 minutes as Liverpool were thumped 7-2 by Villa last time out
‘He’s the complete player in that position and has made it look easy, but maybe he’s not been challenged enough and then, like a cricketer being done by a slower ball, he’s come unstuck.’
‘If you’ve not been worrying about forwards troubling you, sometimes you drop your guard a fraction. It’s a natural human thing.
‘Maybe that’s seeped in a bit at Liverpool in general. I’m sure Jurgen Klopp will recognise that and get them back on track.’