Flashback to May 24 and a protracted 90 minutes of mind-numbing Manchester United dominance in the Europa League final against Ajax Amsterdam: Manchester controlled the game and knew how to preserve the lead. Mourinho was exhibiting his finals pedigree and with Ajax imploring his team reverted to type, playing functional football without any beauty, joy or fantasy.

The European triumph rescued Manchester’s putrid season. They had endured much of it, drawing far too many games and stumbling where they shouldn’t have stumbled. When it mattered, however, Mourinho offered a masterclass how to secure a ticket for the Champions League. His Machiavellian method yielded the result he wanted, but that victory was only the precursor of greater dreams - next season had to be better.

It needed to be. A school of thought around Old Trafford professed Mourinho an undesirable. His football and tactics were disrespectful of the club’s heritage, some said. It’s a problem Mourinho struggled with at Real Madrid as well. His antagonism and pragmatism weren’t accepted in the self-proclaimed capital of galactic football. His philosophy was blasphemous of a tradition that began with Ferenc Puskas and Alfredo Di Stefano.

The math for Mourinho and United were simple this season: play pleasing football and win silverware, or face another year of discontent, resentment and chagrin. The Portuguese heeded the warning signs. Mourinho has addressed the stylistic issues and even relinquished his fetishized role of perennial underdog. Apart from a draw with Stoke City, United enjoy a perfect record as September is meandering towards its end.

The second season sydrome

It’s a pretty position to be in, but perhaps not a coincidence. Mourinho tends to excel in his second season. Since joining Porto in 2002 he has always won the domestic championship in his second season. In Portugal and at Inter Milan, he even won those landmark Champions League titles. At Real Madrid, he toppled Pep Guardiola’s FC Barcelona to win La Liga. There is of course a sequel to the Mourinho anatomy. His third seasons veer towards the disastrous, but that is a future concern.

Mourinho dissects his first season with a scalpel and removes the cancerous cells that may cause a rot - or at least he tries to correct what is wrong and improve where it’s required. He demands an emotional response from his players. His second season during his second spell at Stamford Bridge is an apt example. The Portuguese brought in Felipe Luis, Cesc Fabregas, Nemanja Matic and Diego Costa. Chelsea went on to win the league with three games to spare.

At Old Trafford, Mourinho is finally proving he can resuscitate United. He fine-tuned his squad and knows his team better. His first eleven have become very adept at reintroducing ‘Fergie Time.’ They have scored nine goals in the last ten minutes of their five games, bedeviling opponents in the encounter’s dying minutes. Romelu Lukaku looms large in those last seconds. Last weekend he showed so against his former club Everton, excelling by the time Wayne Rooney had been subbed at the other end.

Lukaku, brimming with youthfulness, weighs on a defense in a way that Rooney couldn’t muster any more last season. The Belgian star striker has increased his shot volume with the United set-up offering him more goal-scoring opportunities than when he spearheaded Everton’s strike force.

A well-rounded squad

In midfield the acquisition of Nemanja Matic has proven to be a masterstroke. The Serbian was key at Chelsea under Mourinho and is so again in the North: he screens the central defense, distributes the ball and provides balance to the midfield in liberating the now-injured Paul Pogba, whose position was United’s big tactical conundrum last season.

Above all, United play with new fervor and intensity - from fleetingness to magnificently floating in a matter of months. They suddenly remind us of a time gone by when, in the natural order of things and the cosmos at large, Manchester were the wholesome kings of the Premier League. It is nostalgia for those nascent boom years of the English league when David Beckham, his chiseled baby face and dyed blond locks included, delivered right-footed footballing ecstasy.

Of course today that sentiment counts for little. At the other side of town a sophisticated ensemble of baby blue ballerinas levitate in sync, following with grace, every swish and swoosh of their master, the ebullient and ever-plotting Pep Guardiola. It’s what Mourinho sees when he peers through the curtains of his suite at the Lowry Hotel and turns his gaze east - that perfected choreography is disconcerting, but, for now, his Manchester is booming.