What was supposed to be a season where Jose and United leaped became a project where the team embarked on a mission to regain its identity. The chaos of the first half against Liverpool with three first-half injuries taught is one thing - this team has the fight needed to get the job done. Maybe the Mourinho tenure was not all that bad. The defensive grit and discipline he tried to instill came in handy.
But this had a cost on the leaderboard. After breaking into the top four for the first time this season, a goalless draw meant that Arsenal would have a one-point lead over the Red Devils and reclaimed a Champions League place. United could fall back to sixth - where they started when Solskjaer took over the reins - should Chelsea make the most of their game in hand.
Moyes, van Gaal, and Mourinho; the one common factor in the firing of all three is that it became impossible for each of them to qualify Champions League. Wenger certainly had a point when he became infamous for dubbing the "Fourth Place Trophy." All parties win when a team plays in Europe's elite competition. Fans get to watch their team go up against the best club football has to offer — players pick-up on the incentives and bonuses written in their contracts and the extra revenue gained from the lucrative TV deals and matchday ticket sales get reinvested into the club. Playing the Europa League in back-to-back seasons (2015-16 and 16-17) were dire. The only net gain in their second run in the other European league was Champions League qualification as a result coming out as champions. But let's face it; Manchester United are too big a club to play on a cold Thursday night in football Siberia.
Finishing fourth - as the top three are virtually impenetrable - will not garner the celebrations that a FA Cup title or a deep Champions League run will warrant. Calculated long-term thinking has been devoid in Old Trafford ever since Sir Alex retired. Qualifying for the Champions League by finishing in top four is much more likely than by finishing the season as the champions of Europe. Should Solskjaer not get appointed as permanently, the Champions League might coerce a top quality manager to call Manchester home. To top this off, the extra revenue earned could be reinvested into new signings or to fund contract extensions for the like of David De Gea and Marcus Rashford.
Only four of United's 11 remaining games are against teams currently in the bottom half of the table with the club having to face both Arsenal and Chelsea in a showdown for the last sought after European spot.
With the anchor leg of the season underway with, United's recent piling up of injuries could be its biggest obstacle. Ole found his starting eleven right from the get know, but his tests as a manager are now going to be tested to its limits. Mata, Herrera, and Lingard all hobbled off in the first half against Liverpool with muscular injuries. Matic missed the fixture against the Reds and Pogba has to adjust to new players in the middle after the park after finally finding the pair that best complemented the skill set. Rashford spent much of the weekend on one leg. And Alexis Sanchez has to get over the fact that he is afraid of his own shadow to become the player that United are in desperate need of and was promised to be.
Fred has been reduced to nothing but a benchwarmer after he was touted as a dynamic box-to-box midfielder. His talent and potential raised eyebrows as his inconsistencies with Brazil, and Shakhtar Donetsk pointed out the fact that he is still very raw.
These injuries could be a blessing in disguise for the likes of Andreas Pereira and Scott McTominay. Both are the best youth products that United's academy has produced in recent years after Rashford. McTominay has shown to be a level-headed and poised player having gotten a run of games under Mourinho while Pereira has the higher ceiling but has had multiple shockers this season alone.
An already thin squad is now on its last legs. But the passion and fortitude that has been missing for the better part of this decade is a sign that this squad has the intangibles to take the fight to the rest of the league. The spirits of the fans have also been missing in the dark years post-Fergie, but the relentless roars of the Old Trafford faithful against Liverpool show that fanbase stands in front of and besides the players. Plus, United can take solace in that this draw could be the day that Liverpool lost the league.
Beating PSG at home and advancing to win the Champions League would require an act of God. So instead of gambling, why not focus everything they have on the outcome with the least risk. Practicality. Who knew that Mourinho's calling card would come in hand at a time when United is actively trying to erase the memory of him?