It was two years ago that Ole Gunnar Solskjær took over the reigns of Manchester United on an interim basis following the dismissal of José Mourinho.
His brief was to restore the feel-good factor and bring back the attacking principles that had provided the platform for so much success in a previous era.
The subsequent victory over Paris Saint-Germain in the UEFA Champions League against the odds a couple of months later in February 2019 formed the perfect job interview for Ole Gunnar Solskjær. By March, he had signed a three-year contract to take over the club on a permanent basis.
A victory over Leeds United on Sunday will move Manchester United right back into not just Champions League contention, but incredibly, title contention.
The pandemic restrictions were always likely to make this the most bizarre season in the history of the English Premier League, but Manchester United are benefiting from the failures of others rather than from their own success.
Manchester United are punching above their weight
Erratic results have brought a distorted table ahead of the busy festive period, but a more natural order should emerge in the second part of the campaign. Clubs will adapt to the changes that have affected every aspect of everyone's personal and professional life.
Manchester United are currently punching above their weight in the Premier League. But Ole Gunnar Solskjær was only ever capable of doing so much at Manchester United, and his own development and progression as a coach has seen him grow with his squad.
In order to succeed, to really succeed, and return to the standards set by Sir Alex Ferguson, a manager of that level is required before Old Trafford can celebrate again.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær has enjoyed relative success this year through the quality of the players available to him.
The arrival of Bruno Fernandes has been key to so much that Manchester United have achieved. Attacking options in Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial and more recently Edinson Cavani have more than papered over the deep-rooted cracks.
The same can be said for other teams, but the inconsistency in performances from Manchester United highlights how little progress is being made under Ole Gunnar Solskjær.
The former striker has improved Marcus Rashford's finishing, but Manchester United need more than an attacking coach if they are to regain place at the top of the European game.
The limitations of Ole Gunnar Solskjær
But the limits of Ole Gunnar Solskjær at Manchester United are close to being reached, and the quicker the club establishes themselves in the top four of the Premier League again, the quicker his departure will come.
Once their status has been re-established, the time will be right to move on to the next stage of the project, and bring in a manager capable of taking the club back to their previous level.
Mauricio Pochettino remains available following his dismissal from Tottenham Hotspur over a year ago. He has publicly expressed a desire to return to the game, and his reputation will see him return to the game with a leading club in the very near future.
Manchester United simply cannot risk passing this opportunity by, and they have already gambled excessively by leaving his inevitable appointment this long.
The Tottenham Hotspur connection
While Tottenham Hotspur are managing fine without him under a rejuvenated José Mourinho, it was Mauricio Pochettino who took the club to the Champions League final in 2019 for the first time in their history.
Currently carried by the form of Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, José Mourinho failings are largely being hidden by his attacking pairing.
But there is a difference between Ole Gunnar Solskjær and José Mourinho, and it is the latter who has established his reputation as a proven success on the biggest stage.
Like Carlo Ancelotti, Pep Guardiola and Jürgen Klopp, these are figures that define their clubs, while Ole Gunnar Solskjær continues to resemble a member of the backroom staff at Old Trafford.
While the big name managerial figures make headlines, the noise from Manchester United surrounds the future of Paul Pogba and David de Gea. The lack of media control is a situation that Sir Alex Ferguson would have refused to tolerate during his tenure.
Manchester United need a leader and figurehead before they can return to the level that their name is built upon.
A real English football rivalry
On Sunday, Ole Gunnar Solskjær will go head-to-head against Marcelo Bielsa. Mauricio Pochettino is one of the Argentine's many coaching disciples, and many would have predicted a reunion between the two this weekend when the fixtures were initially published.
A famous fixture in the history of the English game, the defensive failings and attacking principles of both teams should make for an erratic classic, and a tactical battle not for the defensive purist.
After two years, Ole Gunnar Solskjær is reaching the end of his Manchester United tenure, purely through the fact he has taken the club as far as he possibly can.
The new year offers an opportunity to reflect and regroup. It is Mauricio Pochettino who will surely now lead Manchester United into the next phase of recovery from the aftermath of Sir Alex Ferguson's departure all those years ago.
Published 19 Dec 2020, 20:37 IST