Louis van Gaal has admitted he wanted to sign John Stones for Manchester United before he made the move to the Etihad Stadium.
The centre-half is having his best-ever season for Manchester City since making his £47.5 million move from Everton in 2016 (BBC Sport).
It has been an up-and-down ride for Stones, with many questioning whether he would ever live up to his billing.
He played second fiddle to Nicolas Otamendi on occasion, and then Aymeric Laporte.
But an injury to the Frenchman earlier this season allowed Stones to come in and strike up a fearsome partnership with new signing Ruben Dias, and he is very much first-choice now.
The rise of Stones doesn’t surprise van Gaal, who has been speaking about the 26-year-old.
He said (via Daily Star): “What is helping Pep is that John Stones is back to his very best.
“I remember seeing Stones as a young defender and I thought he was fantastic and blessed with a great personality.
“This was the reason I wanted to sign him when I was manager of Man United. I did not succeed.
“I would have loved it if he had come to United, but he chose to go to City.”
Stones vindicating £50 million fee
It has taken him some time, but Stones is finally looking like the £50 million defender City clearly thought he was when they signed him.
He’s a few years older and there is much more consistency now, and his cause has of course been helped by the signing of Dias.
£100,000-a-week star Stones (Spotrac) deserves major credit for turning things around at City when he could easily have departed in any of the past few transfer windows.