Louis van Gaal took over the seventh placed side and an inadequate, unbalanced squad with plenty of fat to trim.
In his first year, the former Barcelona and Bayern boss took United back into the Champions League- an absolute necessity- while a third of the way into his sophomore season, we nestle in third place. above all our traditional rivals.
If proof of progress were needed, those facts surely provide it.
The scale of Van Gaal's original mission should not be forgotten or underestimated.
The priority for almost any new manager tasked with rebuilding a failing team would be to make his side hard to beat and obviously you need a strong defence for that.
By the time Van Gaal had arrived, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra had all made for the exit - breaking up three quarters of the finest defensive unit the Premier League has ever seen.
So somewhat understandably, for much of the Dutchman's first season, the defence was a mess and United were lucky to have the brilliant David de Gea behind it.
Now, less than a year on, we have the joint best defensive record in the league.
Chris Smalling has been transformed into one of the best centre-halves in the country, Luke Shaw was flying before his injury and Daley Blind has been a surprise success in the back four.
If nothing else, LVG deserves immense credit for this defensive turnaround.
In front of the back four, the manager has addressed an area no United boss has for a decade: the gaping chasm in the holding midfield position.
The boss recruited not one but two first-rate midfielders in Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin.
Both have settled and, they, along with Michael Carrick when called upon, must take credit for the team's solid foundation.
Many observers want to see at least one of United's base midfielders let loose, certainly against some of the 'lesser sides'.
Schneiderlin, though, said in September that, in the short-term at least, their role is a defensive one.
"We're more there for support, to feed the forward players, and leaving it up to them.
"With time, I'll start shooting from distance again but the most important thing for us is not to concede any goals, meaning that we only need to score one to get the three points."
It is that philosophy that grinds the gears of the Old Trafford faithful- such a supposedly negative approach goes against the 'United Way'- however that may be defined.
To be continued....