Even before Sir Alex Ferguson announced his retirement, there had long been a theory that the manager who followed him would have his work cut out.
That wasn't the job you wanted. No. You wanted to be the man who went after the man who replaced Fergie.
The logic was simple. Ferguson was so successful that it would be almost impossible to continue, never mind improve his record. You only have to look at Wilf McGuinness to see that.
And so it proved. David Moyes took over from Ferguson and was sacked 10 months into his six-year contract.
But now comes the man after the man. Louis van Gaal.
Expectations should be at an all-time low at Old Trafford this summer. Well, as low as they've been since 1974.
United finished seventh last season. They ended it 22 points behind champions Manchester City and 15 points off a Champions League spot. They were even five points away from securing the last Europa League place.
It's a lot of ground to make up to get back to where they're used to.
But the mood has changed since the end of last season. Van Gaal is using the World Cup to show anyone who didn't know already that he is a top-quality coach.
And United are spending money. First on Ander Herrera and then Luke Shaw. Two exciting young players. There is the promise of more to come before August.
Slowly but surely, expectations are rising. The fans who said they would be happy for a place in the top four next season are starting to set their sights a little higher.
There is nothing wrong with that. After all, we are talking about Manchester United, a football club that measures success in silver.
But it's important to remember what United went through last season. And what they have lost.
Experienced defenders Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic have gone. And the players who stayed have had their confidence battered and bruised.
More than that, history suggests teams that make a lot of changes in one summer aren't immediately successful. Just ask Andre Villas-Boas and Franco Baldini.
United fans have reason to be optimistic. Things are looking a lot brighter now than they were in the aftermath of two damaging, humiliating Old Trafford defeats to Manchester City and Liverpool only a matter of months ago.
But amid all the excitement, it's important to remember that United are rebuilding. The first target must be to get back into the Champions League.
A club of their size and stature can't do without it for very long.
A trophy, the title even, is, of course, possible. But it will be a bonus.
The real task facing Van Gaal is getting United back on the right track. Right where the man before the last man left them.
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