United’s bid is understood to be worth £7 million, but it has fallen on deaf ears with the Saints unwilling to part ways with Smallbone.
The 23-year-old has only 12 months left on his contract at St Mary’s, but Southampton are determined to keep him beyond this summer.
There is currently no talk of an extended contract on the horizon, but United are not giving up on the midfielder, who has emerged as a primary target.
United have pocketed £15m from Berge’s departure and are expected to reinvest the proceeds into signing a replacement.
Smallbone is high on their list, and they are likely to return with an improved offer, with several other clubs also monitoring the player’s situation.
He came up through the youth ranks at Southampton and spent two years in the first team set-up before being shipped out on loan.
The Republic of Ireland international spent the last season on loan at Stoke City, and his performances have convinced Southampton he is worth keeping at the club.
Retaining Smallbone’s services will spare Southampton the trouble of spending on a possible replacement for West Ham United-bound James Ward-Prowse.
The 28-year-old free-kick specialist is on the cusp of finalising a move to London in a deal worth £30m, and Smallbone could be a like-for-like replacement.
Ward-Prowse also progressed through the youth system at Southampton, and his imminent departure will end an 11-year association with the club.
Losing both Smallbone and Ward-Prowse could hurt Southampton’s chances of mounting a promotion challenge, but it remains to be seen if the former will pledge his allegiance to the club.
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