The truth behind Man Utd transfer attempts for Liverpool trio Mane, Firmino and Fabinho
When Liverpool look to make it nine wins from nine in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon at Old Trafford, three players may just be wondering how different things could have been for them.
United currently find themselves in a position not too dissimilar to Liverpool in the season when Jurgen Klopp first arrived at Anfield.
In fact, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Premier League record after 29 league matches reads almost identical to his counterpart’s in the away dug-out.
Fourteen wins, and seven draws compared with Klopp’s 13 wins and eight draws, so perhaps that offers a fraction of hope that the Norwegian can turn things around as the pressure mounts.
The one thing which remains clearer is that Liverpool are now knocking United off their perch and have assembled a juggernaut that their rivals must envy.
While the power shift has not been sudden, the first signing which really kickstarted an exciting new era for Liverpool was Sadio Mane.
The jet-heeled forward cost £34million from Southampton and an explosive debut against Arsenal on the opening day of the 2016/17 season was a sign of things to come.
But if it hadn’t have been for Klopp – a manager who had tried to sign him for Borussia Dortmund from Red Bull Salzburg – Mane could have ended up a United player.
Man Utd wanted to sign Sadio Mane from Southampton before he joined Liverpool
Sadio Mane spoke with ex-Man Utd boss Louis van Gaal on the phone
“I was really, really close because I even met up with them,” the 27-year-old told The Mirror ahead of the Champions League final.
“So I was coming, I was there and I spoke with the boss who was there before [Louis van Gaal].
“They made an offer, but in the same week, [Jurgen] Klopp called me.
“He said: ‘I think it’s the right club. The right coach for you, and I think it’s better that you go to Liverpool’.
Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino are two of Liverpool’s shining lights
“For me I think it was the right time as well. I said, ‘I am going to Liverpool.’”
The rest as they say, is history with Mane now a lead rockstar in Klopp’s heavy metal band, sharing the Premier League golden boot with Mohamed Salah and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang last season.
Roberto Firmino, often his partner in crime, was on United’s radar too.
In fact, there were reports that even went as far as saying a £13.1million fee had been agreed with Hoffenheim in June 2015, just 12 days before he would eventually sign for Liverpool after making a name for himself in the Bundesliga.
The interest was there from United, but once the Anfield hierarchy agreed they wanted to sign the Brazilian, they were prepared to go to extra lengths to get it over the line.
Reports claimed Man Utd had agreed a fee for Roberto Firmino with Hoffenheim
Roberto Firmino is indispensable to this Liverpool team
Firmino was committed to international duty with Brazil at the Copa America and United were holding out for their exit before pressing on with an official offer.
Liverpool saw that as a window of opportunity, jetting chief executive Ian Ayre to Chile to wrap the deal up for £29m.
Then there was Fabinho, a player who had long been linked with both a move away from Monaco and a switch to United.
His wife Rebeca Tavares, well known for her social media presence, first ignited speculation in 2016 when she followed the Red Devils on Instagram.
Two years later he was said to be on the wish-list of Jose Mourinho, who handed him his Real Madrid debut in 2013.
Fabinho and Roberto Firmino both could have joined Man Utd
Fabinho has become Liverpool’s lynchpin since joining from AS Monaco
The Portuguese ended up re-signing Nemanja Matic from Chelsea and after joining Liverpool, while Fabinho admitted that a “few conversations” had taken place between United and Monaco but nothing was ever concrete.
“I was never close to signing for Manchester United, no,” he told FourFourTwo.
“I heard things said about it, but the truth is it was never a strong possibility.
“I won’t deny there were a few conversations about my situation with Monaco, but there was never an official offer from United.”
Given the stark contrast in current affairs, all three players will be grateful a move to their bitter rivals never materialised as they prepare to embark on another step towards their goal, the Premier League title.