Less than month ago Manchester United were a dysfunctional club, with a team susceptible to being turned over and a manager who had lost the dressing room.
Now, under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, they have been galvanised, their collective spirit is back and, with six wins from six games, they are an opponent to be feared again.
The Norwegian former United forward has proven a terrific appointment as caretaker boss – so good, in fact, that it is giving the United hierarchy a decision to make.
Results decide managers’ fates and Solskjaer has achieved 100 per cent success on that front. That is why he is being talked about as a rival to the likes of Mauricio Pochettino for the role on a long-term basis.
He has been positive in his team selections and he has reversed Jose Mourinho’s position on Paul Pogba, who was criminally under-used. The effect has been inspirational.
On top of his impact, Solskjaer is a perfect fit for the United brand. Long loved by fans for his attitude and commitment, scoring the winning goal in the 1999 Champions League final made him a club icon.
Father figure Fergie
His return to Old Trafford has also restored a stronger connection with Sir Alex Ferguson. He has Fergie’s old No2 Micky Phelan as his assistant, and I could see the humble Solskjaer being ready to seek advice from a father figure in Sir Alex in a way that Mourinho and his predecessor Louis van Gaal would not.
The main question mark over Solskjaer’s credentials relates to his lack of experience. Having only managed Molde and Cardiff City previously, he is not used to operating at the end of the transfer market inhabited by super-clubs like United.
Can he oversee £200m worth of business in the summer and reshape the squad to build on the recovery he has overseen so far? That is what United chiefs will have to weigh up.
Either way, they would be better off deciding before May who they want in the dugout next season. Recruitment has to be planned and it can’t be left until the current campaign is over.
I can see fan power becoming a major factor in United’s decision. Solskjaer has engineered a turnaround that has been little short of miraculous, adding to the hero status achieved in his treble-winning playing days. I think supporters would welcome him getting the job on a longer basis – and I reckon the players would too.
Caretaker managers don’t always work out when they stay on, and of course if Solskjaer got the job it could all go wrong and he could be gone before Christmas – as was the case with Roberto di Matteo, who led Chelsea to the Champions League in May 2012 and was axed in the November.
But you can only go by results. In that regard Solskjaer could not have done more. If he can keep the wins coming and ensure United push Chelsea and Arsenal all the way to finish in the top four of the Premier League, he’d be my preferred candidate.