THEY will thank Jose Mourinho for this one day.
By stripping away Manchester United’s identity and ripping the soul out of the club, he forced them to fall back on all the things that made them great.
Unwittingly, Mourinho has made the modern United.
The smash-and-grab nature of their breathtaking Champions League victory over Paris Saint-Germain took them right back to their roots.
United’s culture is deep-seated and ingrained, something the Special One could never come to terms with when he tried to drag them in a different direction.
They are back on course under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
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He has restored the unshakeable belief, reminding them that the United shirt comes with certain responsibilities.
Solskjaer told them in the dressing room that money, even with PSG’s unlimited funding, has never put the ball in the back of the net.
Those words must have lifted them.
In a post-match TV interview with former team-mate Gary Neville, the caretaker coach declared: “We are Manchester United — it’s what we do.”
That sort of stuff must make the players think they can achieve anything.
To come from 2-0 down in the first leg, to score three times inside the emotionally-charged Parc des Princes is a remarkable achievement.
It is the reason United’s coaching staff all sank to the turf in disbelief when Marcus Rashford smacked his 90th-minute penalty beyond the great Gianluigi Buffon.
It is the reason Eric Cantona made his way down to the dressing rooms with Sir Alex Ferguson for a fist-clenched, triumphant picture with Solskjaer.
It is also the reason United’s players serenaded the manager by singing his name when he was carrying out post-match interviews.
They respect his approach, putting the fun back into a dressing room that had became stale and anarchic under the previous regime.
Mourinho took away the identity of these players and chipped away at their self-esteem with his private and public utterings.
Under Mourinho, watching United became one of the most miserable matchday experiences imaginable.
A gagging order, signed when United paid up £15million on his contract after firing him in December, means he cannot defend himself.
He should still take the credit for Juventus away because the dramatic 2-1 victory in the group phase kept them in the Champions League.
Even then, United was broken.
Solskjaer has fixed it, restoring some familiar traditions and making it an enjoyable environment again.
They play with a smile on their face, liberated by the encouraging words of their caretaker-manager.
When the players post on social media these days, it can no longer be construed as an attempt to antagonise or irritate the management.
Everybody at United is on message.
It is a sensible strategy by Solskjaer because these players were tired of their predecessor’s gloomy outlook.
Solskjaer is responsible for this refreshing approach, a return to football flying by the seat of their pants.
That is the way they like it at United, brought up on Fergie’s gambles and his unrivalled touchline intuition.
Solskjaer is showing bravery by respecting United’s heritage, giving young players the chance to make an impact in the first team.
With ten out injured for the second leg, he trusted Scott McTominay to play in the centre of midfield alongside Fred and Andreas Pereira.
Mason Greenwood (17), Angel Gomes (18) Tahith Chong (19) and James Garner (17), who made his debut in the win at Crystal Palace, were among the substitutes.
It is fearless stuff.
Solskjaer has been rewarded for that, with a club record nine successive wins on the road since he replaced the Special One.
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They are deep into the Champions League now, a quarter-final team at the very minimum after Wednesday’s spectacular win.
In years to come they will look back on this era and realise that they reverted to playing the United way.
Mourinho could never quite grasp that.
During his destructive regime he destroyed team spirit and did away with the relentless attacking principles that these supporters demand.
Fortunately for United, they found someone who could take them back to the future.
Poch is no villain
JUST when you bend over to pick up a gong, along comes the FA to kick you right up the jacksie.
They timed their run on Wednesday morning, announcing Mauricio Pochettino’s fine and touchline ban hours after Tottenham’s Champions League win over Borussia Dortmund.
Poch, one of the more mild-mannered managers on the touchline, landed in trouble for giving celebrity referee Mike Dean a piece of his mind after their defeat at Burnley.
He is entitled to appeal, especially when some of his colleagues routinely escape proper punishment.
Jurgen Klopp is a menace down there, escaping censure when he invaded the pitch to celebrate Liverpool’s 96th-minute winner in the Merseyside derby.
When he gave ref Kevin Friend a mouthful after the draw at West Ham in February, he was fined £45,000.
Poch, making a rare disciplinary error, has every right to feel hard done by.
Real time to strike
WITH Real Madrid out of the way, this is a good time for English clubs to take advantage in the Champions League.
Real will be back next season, reinvigorated under yet another new coach and reinvented after this season’s failure.
A summer rebuild and a new strategy is on the way after Ajax trounced them 4-1 in the Bernabeu on Tuesday.
Their grip on Europe is over for now, coming to an end after Zinedine Zidane led them to a hat-trick of triumphs.
It is the end of an era but Real will soon be back for more.
Learning is the key
TAKING part in Sky Sports News’ Tackling Racism series this week was always going to be a challenging hour on set.
As the white guy in the room, there are some obvious flaws when it comes to showing a full appreciation of some of the key issues.
The biggest responsibility, in a landscape described as “pale and male” by BBC sports news reporter Natalie Pirks this week, is to show a willingness to learn from those who are better placed.