Louis van Gaal has been dealt a blow in his alleged pursuit of Virgil van Dijk after the highly-rated Celtic defender said it felt "great" to be linked with Arsenal, but made no reference to alleged interest from Manchester United.
The 23-year-old Dutchman has been the subject of intense speculation suggesting he could move to the Premier League in 2015, but is not expected to be sold in the January transfer window as the Scottish giants look to retain his services for the rest of the current campaign.
According to the Daily Star last weekend, the Gunners and the Red Devils have been keeping tabs on Van Dijk's development north of the border, and despite Celtic's reluctance to cash-in on the player this month they are planning to make their move before the transfer window closes.
With a reported price-tag of around £10 million the centre-back is being regarded as a relatively good value for money acquisition in what is becoming an increasingly inflated mid-season market.
However, there will still be some doubts about Van Dijk's capability of adjusting to the rigours of English top-flight football, which is vastly superior in standard when compared to the Scottish Premier League where he's made his name in the past couple of years.
Asked about his time at Celtic Park, the former Holland U21 international - who is yet to be capped at senior level - said the past 18 months have flown by, but also admitted that he's started to think about the next chapter in his career.
"It's gone awfully quickly," he explained in an interview with Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf. "I have recently been thinking a bit about it [my career].
"I am now 23 and have played at Willem II, FC Groningen and Celtic and am now linked to clubs like Arsenal. Isn't that great?"
Arsene Wenger's interest comes as he continues his search for defensive reinforcements at the Emirates Stadium after failing to fill the void left by Thomas Vermaelen's departure to Barcelona last summer.
The Gunners boss has also been mooted as an admirer of Winston Reid, but the West Ham United man looks set to join north London rivals Tottenham which could prompt Arsenal to turn attention back to Van Dijk.
Van Gaal's courting of the Celtic ace is perhaps a little more surprising, particularly when you consider that the Red Devils boss overlooked Van Dijk when selecting his Netherlands squad for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
But, given Manchester United's clear defensive frailties a surprise switch to Old Trafford could be on the cards, even after being overlooked by the player in his most recent interview.
"There are a lot of clubs interested, but Celtic is holding on to a big transfer fee," he added when questioned about the likelihood of Celtic agreeing to his exit. "The club is clear: they don't want to let me go in the winter, because we're playing for four trophies.
"I understand the point of view from the club and I see it as a compliment that they don't want to let me go. But we have to be realistic. If there's a nice club from England, we have to talk. I want to develop myself as a player, that's for sure."
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