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Manchester United passed on signing Man City star Ruben Dias

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Manchester United passed on the chance to sign Ruben Dias two years before he joined Manchester City.

Jose Mourinho shortlisted former Benfica defender Dias among potential centre-back targets in the 2018 summer transfer window but Unitedvetoed almost all of Mourinho’s suggestions.

The Manchester Evening News understands Mourinho had intimate knowledge of Portugal international Dias due to his contacts at Benfica and through his agent Jorge Mendes, who also represents Dias.

Dias was 21 at the time of United’s interest and played against them twice in the 2017 Champions League group stage. Two club scouts watched Dias in April 2018 after United bought Victor Lindelof from Benfica in 2017, but the recruitment department was only receptive to signing a more proven centre half.

Dias, 24, was voted the Football Writers’ Association Player of the Year on Thursday and is expected to claim the Professional Footballers’ Association award.

City signed the Portuguese for a club-record £64.3million in the summer and regained the Premier League title last week. Pep Guardiola’s side also boast the best top-flight defensive record.

United’s refusal to recruit a centre half three years ago heavily contributed to their worst defensive season in 40 years – when they conceded 54 league goals – as well as Mourinho’s dismissal in December 2018. They finished the season in sixth.

Mourinho shortlisted Dias with Harry Maguire, Kalidou Koulibaly, Milan Skriniar, Diego Godin, Jerome Boateng, and Nikola Milenkovic. Leicester valued Maguire at £75m and United bought him for £80m a year later amid competition from City.

United were outpriced on a move for Skriniar as Inter Milan demanded £76m and the United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward is believed to have derided Mourinho’s interest in Boateng. The former Germany international helped Bayern Munich to win the Champions League last year.

Intermediaries held discussions over a possible deal for Tottenham defender Toby Alderweireld but Mourinho dismissed the Belgian as an attainable target as he sensed Woodward was reluctant to deal with Spurs chairman Daniel Levy.

United triggered Godin’s release clause in his Atletico Madrid contract and Woodward arranged to meet the Uruguayan’s sister, but Mourinho was assured Godin had no interest in moving to Manchester.

Woodward was prepared to sanction a £100m move for Real Madrid centre half Raphael Varane but Mourinho was informed by former colleagues at Madrid there was no chance of a transfer.

United have prioritised signing a centre-back in the upcoming summer window and are

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