Typically for the way Liverpool does its transfer business, the anticipated signing of Netherlands winger Cody Gakpo came as a pleasant surprise.
The Reds were not anticipated to make a move for a forward in the January window, but just as was the case with Luis Diaz last year, the opportunity arose to land a top talent that was simply too good to miss.
Gakpo has been on sparkling form this season netting nine goals and registering 12 assists in a mere 14 league games for PSV Eindhoven.
An impressive World Cup followed for his country where admirers included Liverpool defender Virgil Van Dijk.
"Hopefully Cody can go to the moon and back," said the towering center-half as Gakpo continued his scoring streak in the Middle East. "He is a very good player and a good boy too.
"What we see in training is what you see on the pitch. There is still so much potential and I hope he can carry on showing it for us. We are very happy with him,” he added.
The pair will become even better acquainted after PSV announced it “completed the negotiations on Boxing Day [December 26] and gave Gakpo permission to travel to England.”
The surprise will be significantly less pleasant a few miles east of where the Dutchman is headed.
Manchester United fans will be sickened the club has lost out on a player the Red Devils have been heavily linked with for some time.
Even more annoying will be the fact he was reportedly snatched from their grasp.
According to English newspaper The Daily Mirror, the transfer progressed in a manner very similar to Diaz who was headed to Tottenham Hotspur until Liverpool swooped in with a better offer.
“The deal is understood to cost a total of $54 million and while United had been negotiating around that figure, Anfield chiefs were willing to pay more of the fee upfront in a lump sum worth $44 million, an offer which appealed to PSV,” the outlet claimed.
“When officials at Old Trafford - who were keen on an alternative payment structure - learned of Liverpool's progress, they decided not to make a counter-offer and admit defeat,” it suggested.
It would be one thing if this was a one-off occurrence, there’s no shame in being outbid by someone willing to pay more.
But Liverpool beating United to the same targets when the Red Devils are the first to the negotiating table is becoming a trend.
In May, Manchester United had identified Uruguayan forward Darwin Nunez of Benfica as the man to bolster its attacking options.
Reports soon emerged the Red Devils were “extremely close” to acquiring the forward despite interest from Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and Athletic Madrid.
But as the summer progressed the deal failed to materialize.
It then emerged that Liverpool was also keen to buy Nunez, who’d impressed in his two Champions League games against the Reds.
The player soon made it clear he wanted to go to Anfield and ultimately the deal was done for a whopping $106 million.
Post-signing it’s been reported that Manchester United didn't progress on the headstart it had on Liverpool after failing to rearrange a meeting with Benfica president Rui Costa who allegedly canceled because he was struck down with food poisoning.
Many Manchester United fans will blame the club’s overly cautious approach to transfer dealings for it missing out on signings. They’ll highlight the many sagas it has been bogged down in and how rarely its transfer strategy feels planned.
But there is another factor far harder for them to swallow, particularly when it comes to long-time bitter rivals Liverpool; they no longer have the same prestige.
Put simply United has been nowhere near as successful in the past decade as the Reds. They are certainly no longer the most attractive club in England to play for.
Unless Erik Ten Hag can pull off a miracle in the second half of the season when the 2022/23 campaign concludes it will also be 10 years since Manchester United last lifted the Premier League trophy.
Since then, while Liverpool has only claimed the crown once, it has also added a Champions League trophy and has consistently challenged for the biggest honors.
Liverpool lost the title by a single point on two occasions and was defeated in a pair of Champions League Finals. In the same period, United has only had one season where it has been a rival to winners Manchester City and even then it was at a lengthy distance.
What’s fascinating about the dynamic between the two clubs is it is not only being played out in the players they acquire. As both clubs’ owners have admitted to being open to the idea of a sale they potentially competing for interested buyers.
On the face of it, Liverpool has the upper hand in this regard too. Already established amongst the elite, there is less playing staff investment for a new backer to have to sink in.
When it comes to infrastructure, the team has a brand new training ground and made substantial upgrades to its stadium.
Manchester United’s chief executive has admitted such improvements are not a realistic possibility without raising significant funds.
“For the future, for investing in a new stadium and a latest-and-greatest training ground we’ve got to do something,” Richard Arnold told fans in an impromptu meeting at a pub in the summer, "I’ve got to have more cash now because no club in the world has the money to build a new stadium.”
Something at United needs to change otherwise it risks falling even further behind its rivals.
Today it might be missing out on Nunez and Gakpo, if it’s not careful the risk for United is tomorrow it won’t even be in the conversation.