Sadio Mane has said it was his decision, not Southampton’s, to reject the opportunity to join Manchester United in 2015.
Mane, 24, could have moved to United under Louis van Gaal but instead chose to continue his development under Ronald Koeman at St. Mary’s, but when Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool approached him 12 months later he took the chance to move on.
“In honesty, there were some clubs interested at that time [in 2015] but I never made any choices then,” he told the Sunday Telegraph. “I did not say I thought of any club and I wanted to play there. That kind of interest gave me a lot confidence on the pitch and made me believe in myself, but I knew this was because of my hard work and I was in a good way.
“Ronald Koeman was not happy with all the rumours because he wanted me to stay, but it was not too complicated because for me, also, it was not time to go. When I spoke to him I told him, ‘No problem, I will stay.’ It was my decision. I wanted to stay at Southampton.
“I was patient because I remember after the first year [in England] I knew it was better to focus on Southampton. In my head I thought I would be there a couple more years and prove something. I was convinced I still had to prove something, improve more and learn more before I moved to a bigger club. But then I knew when the right time was for me. The extra year helped me get better, and it is important for every player to go step by step.
“It was only when Liverpool came in [last summer] that I never had a second thought and knew I wanted to join. It was different because then was the right moment for me. I finally came to Liverpool and I was happy with that, and now I’m happy I am playing against Manchester United.”
The Senegal international is confident of Liverpool’s chances of beating their north-west rivals and thinks this clash could be the biggest of his career so far.
“We are going to beat Manchester United,” he said. “Of course. We all believe it. We are going to make it.
“Maybe this will be the biggest game I have played in. It’s normal the fans and people will think this is a particular type of game.
“We know it’s one of the big games of the season. It might be like El Clasico but, really, when the games starts and you get on to the pitch, then you do have to treat it more like a normal game.”