Fabinho driven by Liverpool’s slow start not Manchester United ‘crisis’

Fabinho was at home nursing an injury and shouting at the television screen when Liverpool humiliated Manchester United at Old Trafford last season. The shouts were not all celebratory. He was also a little greedy.

Liverpool recorded their biggest win at Old Trafford with a 5-0 victory against Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s sorry side. Their aggregate score against United reached 9-0 for the season, the most Liverpool have scored against their fierce rivals in a single campaign since 1895‑96. Mohamed Salah’s hat-trick was also the first by a Liverpool player at United since 1936. And still Fabinho wanted more.

Swapping his professional hat for a fans’ outlook on that historic day brought frustration that Jürgen Klopp’s team seemed to declare after the fifth goal was scored in the 50th minute. For United, reduced to 10 men when Paul Pogba was dismissed on the hour, that proved their only blessing.

“I remember the last away game against United, I was watching at home and sometimes I was shouting at the TV,” says the Brazil international, who is in line to make his 100th Premier League start for Liverpool on Monday night. “To be honest, I wanted the team to attack more to try and score more goals because we had one more player in that moment, but it was the moment where the team tried to control more of the game and to stabilise the ball.

“As a fan, I wanted the team to score more because it was a big opportunity to do a historic score at Old Trafford but of course 5-0 was not bad. I was more on the fan side than a player side that day but then, because you are on the pitch so often, you understand both sides. I think the fans were happy with the 5-0.”

The rout came three months into last season and tipped United into a full-blown crisis from which Solskjær never recovered. The latest meeting of the old north-west foes arrives three matches into the new campaign but, given Erik ten Hag’s dreadful start and the internal problems at Old Trafford, it is not a wild exaggeration to suggest Liverpool could again place United in turmoil with another emphatic victory. Fabinho maintains that is not the priority.

“Playing a derby is always a big motivation. The first half last season was almost perfect because the team played an almost perfect game. We scored four goals in the first half and the way we played, the way we pressed them, the quality we played on the ball was really unbelievable.

“I don’t care if a win pushes them a little bit more into crisis, I just want to beat them and win three points. It is always a big game and during the week the media talks a lot about this game. Playing there is never easy and we know that if we win the fans will be happy to beat our rivals. We need three points as well. It will be our first three points in the competition so there are a lot of things that give us motivation.”

Liverpool have not exactly flown out of the blocks themselves. Two successive draws, at Fulham and home to Crystal Palace, have handed an early advantage to Manchester City while Darwin Núñez’s stupidity against Patrick Vieira’s team has left Klopp without his star summer signing for the next three games. Fabinho said: “It is not the start we wanted of course – two games, two draws – but it is only the beginning of the season. We are really calm about this. We know we can win the games to ensure that the gap doesn’t become too big, to the other clubs, not just Man City. We are calm because we know the quality of the team and there are still 36 games left.”

He insists Liverpool’s slow start is not a hangover from missing out on the Premier League title and losing the Champions League final at the end of last season. “I don’t really think about this now. After the Champions League final it was hard not to think about the game and the defeat. After the game we knew we had to do the parade with the fans and most of the players didn’t want to do it because they were not in the right mood but the parade helped me a lot personally. In the parade we forgot about everything, we were just in the moment with the fans. Sometimes we have to have this kind of experience to remind ourselves what this club means for the fans.

“Of course we want to be successful but it is not just about winning. The fans were proud of the team because the season was really good. After two or three weeks I started not to think about the Champions League final. It hurt me this final because I thought we played much better than Real Madrid but in a final you have to win, not play better than the other team. Now I don’t think about it any more.”