It has become a staple of social media chatter and patter to speculate just how Jose Mourinho has reacted to Manchester United’s resurgence since his sacking.
Indeed, the Portuguese coach allowed a glimpse into his mood by appearing as a pundit on Qatari TV, sending some spiteful barbs in the direction of the Old Trafford club.
He’s not the only one who will have watched United’s recent run of form under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with a chip on their shoulder. This is, after all, a club that has chewed up and spat out countless players in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson years.
Man Utd have become English football’s most wasteful outfit, and so with that there will be many around world football watching what is happening right now and pondering how things might have been different for them.
The appointment of Solskjaer as caretaker manager hasn’t just rejuvenated Man Utd as a team, but as a group of individuals.
Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford and Victor Lindelof, just to name a few, have all found performance levels that evaded them under Mourinho, with Solskjaer harnessing his biggest names and best players in a way his predecessor didn’t.
How many others would have flourished under Solskjaer?
Man Utd have spent hundreds of millions in the post-Ferguson age and it’s only now that they are getting something for their money.
For many, though, this opportunity came too late. Now, they watch from afar as their former teammates thrive.
Take Memphis Depay, for instance. Handed the club’s iconic number seven shirt upon his arrival from PSV Eindhoven in the summer of 2015, the Dutch winger was billed as Man Utd’s next big thing.
There were glimpses of his brilliance, but Louis Van Gaal and Mourinho never found a way to get the best from Depay. Now, he is a star at Lyon.
Angel di Maria is another who surely would have stood a better chance of success under Solskjaer.
He was the symbolic first signing of a new Galacticos transfer policy devised by Ed Woodward, but the Argentinian was gone just one year later as United took a £10 million hit, selling di Maria to Paris Saint-Germain.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan is another who made the move to Old Trafford at the wrong time.
Coming off the back of a season that saw the Armenian notch 11 goals and 15 assists in 31 Bundesliga appearances for Borussia Dortmund, his signing was considered a real coup for United.
And yet Mourinho did nothing to harness Mkhitaryan. In fact, if anything, he did his best to sabotage him, eventually using the attacker as a makeweight in the deal that carried Alexis Sanchez north.
Man Utd with Solskjaer in charge have become English football’s most exhilarating counter attacking outfit, as demonstrated by last Friday’s FA Cup win over Arsenal, and Mkhitaryan is a player who would have facilitated that approach.
He would have filled a hole on the right side of the United team.
One also wonders what Adnan Januzaj thinks of what he has seen from his former club over the past month-and-a-half. After breaking through as a teenager under David Moyes, the Belgian stagnated and was loaned out by Van Gaal before eventually being hastily sold on the cheap by Mourinho.
Since then, he was has rediscovered his old spark.
Some others likely would have been beyond help. Radamel Falcao, for instance, joined United on the back of a serious knee injury that took him two seasons, at least, and a return to Monaco to truly recover from. Even then, the Colombian was never again the force he was at his peak.
Of course, it’s worth pointing out that Solskjaer has only been in charge for a matter of weeks and that we should be wary of overstating his tonic qualities.
But, it’s only natural to look at the early success he has had in reviving current Man Utd players and wonder what he might have done for some who came before.