Liverpool got a good look at Bruno Fernandes long before Manchester United made their move, with Jason McAteer of the opinion that the Reds should have snapped up a “huge influence”.
Jurgen Klopp’s side faced Sporting in a pre-season friendly at Yankee Stadium in New York during the summer of 2019.
Fernandes opened the scoring in what would end up being a 2-2 draw, with his playmaking qualities and keen eye for goal clear for all to see.
Neither opted to put a deal in place, though, and the 25-year-old is now starring on a Premier League stage at Old Trafford.
"Manchester United were in disarray not long ago," ex-Reds midfielder McAteer told the Racing Post.
"There seemed to be a lack of characters in the dressing room but the lockdown now looks to have provided them with a welcome break and they have benefited from some work on the training ground.
"They have started back well and Bruno Fernandes has been brilliant.
"I saw him play against Liverpool for Sporting Lisbon in the summer in America and he was brilliant. I was hoping Liverpool would sign him and he’s been a huge influence.
"He has made Paul Pogba look a better player and you can tell the younger members of the team have been given more confidence.
"They know that they have a player who is capable of finding them when they are in good positions.
"Their defence is still a concern and I think they are prone to sulking if they go a goal behind but they are lying in wait for Leicester to continue slipping up and they look ready to pounce.
"Much of their rejuvenation is down to their Portuguese midfielder."
Liverpool have fared admirably without Fernandes, with a first title triumph in 30 years wrapped up in record-breaking style.
There is, however, a sense that Klopp still needs to find another creative influence in the middle of the park after choosing not to bring in a replacement for Philippe Coutinho when the Brazilian headed to Barcelona in January 2018.
He is being linked with a number of options ahead of the next window, such as Thiago Alcantara and Kai Havertz, but will be lining up against Fernandes again next season as the Portuguese seeks to help force United back into contention for a domestic crown.