Virgil van Dijk could start for Southampton against Man United

Southampton manager Mauricio Pellegrino could start Virgil van Dijk for this first time this season against free-scoring Manchester United on Saturday.

Van Dijk has not started a game for eight months after suffering a serious foot injury in January and handing in a transfer request during the summer.

The Netherlands international made his first-team return as a substitute in the 1-0 win at Crystal Palace last weekend and could now be called upon against a United side with 16 goals in their opening five Premier League games.

"We'll decide tomorrow [Friday]," Pellegrino said when asked whether Van Dijk would play.

"But every single week, Virgil is important because he is getting better. After a long period of time without playing a game, he is training well again.

"It's good news for us because we need Virgil, like every single player in our squad. He needs to train, he needs to play because the best training session for me is to play games."

Van Dijk -- who was strongly linked with Liverpool and Chelsea before the closure of the transfer window -- featured for Saints' under-23 side this week.

And Pellegrino said the former Celtic player would continue to be available for second-string fixtures in order to regain his fitness.

"I would like to introduce him little by little. The other day, he played 50 minutes, but it is something," he said.

"I was watching the video of the game and all of the senior players were really well, and it's an opportunity to be there on the pitch and be physically fit 100 percent."

Pellegrino described United as the "biggest team in the world" and said they would provide the sternest test of his tenure at St Mary's so far.

"For me it's a nice opportunity," he said. "I see this game as a huge opportunity for us because we realise we are against a top team.

"When we play against the biggest team in the world, it allows us to draw some conclusions about how we are. This is for me the nice challenge, and we have to strive for this.

"Playing against Manchester United is one of the most beautiful things. I will live this opportunity, I will live this game, and we have to try to enjoy this game."