The death knell for Jose Mourinho at Manchester United was the Kop chanting 'Don't sack Mourinho'. Two days later, Mourinho ended his residency at The Lowry.

So much from that 3-1 defeat smarted for United figures. Sirs Alex Ferguson and Bobby Charlton, David Gill and Ed Woodward were in the Anfield directors' box and Paul Pogba was a spectator, unused and on the bench. United's back three tactic had an air of surrender about it.

The architect of it was Fabinho, a player incessantly linked with United for years prior to his transfer to Liverpool. The speculation became so intense Fabinho's wife followed United on Instagram one year and, in the next, an inaccurate report by a journalist of an imminent move put online United fans in a frenzy.

Cards on the table: this correspondent and a colleague reported Fabinho was not a target and United were expected to sign Nemanja Matic. For that faithful reporting, we were abused by faceless keyboard warriors who probably did not apologise when United signed Matic and did not sign Fabinho.

Fabinho shared the same agent as Mourinho and was the linchpin of Monaco's Ligue 1 title triumph in 2017. Ultimately, Mourinho favoured a Premier League-proven option in Matic or, preferably, Eric Dier. United were unmoved in 2018 and Liverpool signed Fabinho for a knockdown £43.7million. Monaco sold Benjamin Mendy for more.

By the time of that announcement, United had already agreed a £52m deal for Fred. The fortunes of the Brazilian midfielders have since differed drastically: Fabinho has had Champions League and Premier League winners' medals placed around his neck and Fred took his Europa League silver medal off as though a snake had dropped onto him.

Despite his predilection for Brazilian players, Mourinho privately insisted Fred was foisted onto him, a recommendation by the technical scout Mick Court, who heads United's recruitment department. Pep Guardiola considered Fred before having his head turned by Jorginho at Napoli and it is arguable the United midfielder would still be more suited to City's midfield.

For two midfielders embedded at England's biggest clubs, Fred and Fabinho have collected a meagre amount of caps for the Brazil national side. Fred has made 21 appearances and Fabinho 20. Fred was included in coach Tite's 2018 World Cup squad but Fabinho wasn't.

Fred and Fabinho challenge for the ball in October 2019
Fred and Fabinho challenge for the ball in October 2019

Fred's two-and-a-half year exile from the Seleção ended in the summer and he has started in ten of the last 12 matches he has been available for. In the two he didn't, he was effectively rested.

Since Fred and Fabinho moved to England they have started together in just three competitive matches for Brazil - two of them in World Cup qualifiers this month. Fred has been the preferred foil for the Real Madrid enforcer Casemiro, unavailable for the recent internationals due to a dental infection, and Fabinho was a substitute in the Copa America final.

It was a reflection of Fred's worth that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer emphasised his qualities on the eve of a match he was not playing in last week. "Fred played really well, played a great pass in for Neymar," Solskjaer said ahead of the Leicester match. "So he would have got lots of confidence from again showing how good a player he is."

Fred was already heavily culpable for a defeat at Leicester this year in the FA Cup quarter-final but his return against Atalanta provided balance. Fred attempted more pressures (23) than any other United player and made the joint-highest number of tackles. At United, the best players do not always make for the best team and Fred is evidence of that.

Just consider Solskjaer's standout wins against the elite: Paris Saint-Germain away (twice), the three league derbies, Tottenham at home and away. Fred started in all of them (as well as in both wins at Frank Lampard's Chelsea) and his return was key in the comeback against Atalanta, blemished only by a wayward side-footer. His absence would be felt on Sunday if he is ruled out.

"Fred is a very good player," Solskjaer explained on Friday. "He's a regular for Brazil, which in itself is a mark of quality, he's got an exceptional personality and attitude to football, such a big smile.

"And at present, I can't say if he's gonna be fit or not but he'll give everything he can to be there for us. He's sharp, he's nimble, he gets to players, he tackles, he's never afraid. The development he's made in the last two and a half years I've been here has been great to watch.

"And it showed when he got injured last season, it was supposed to be a six to eight-week injury and he was back the day before the Europa League final, he fully joined the training session, we had to strap him up for the game and if I'd known before I'd maybe have played him. But he would have put his hand up and sacrificed himself for the team, that's for sure."

The £52m midfielder went 53 days without playing during Solskjaer's caretaker reign but few players are as obviously trusted by the United manager as Fred. It was inevitable Fred and Scott McTominay would be restored for a pivotal week and no one will be surprised if they emerge from the tunnel again against Liverpool.

Fred and McTominay could start again
Fred and McTominay could start again

Fred has started in six of the eight league matches so far this season and already had three different partners. He has been overplayed but even in the draw with Everton his presence underpinned a slicker attack devoid of Pogba and Cristiano Ronaldo - until he was meekly held off by Demarai Gray.

Fabinho is the finer midfielder and Fred is unlikely to ever convince United fans they signed the right Brazilian three years ago. Fred is yet to start on the winning side against Liverpool and Fabinho has been dominating Manchester midfields since his Monaco winner eliminated City from the Champions League. First it was Guardiola and then Mourinho.