For supporters of Manchester United and England, it is only the latter that offer any cause for excitement or optimism.
That is the state of affairs for the first time in a generation and the contrast between the teams’ respective managers could not be more marked.
That is not to say that Gareth Southgate is right now ready to be a Manchester United manager, but he is acting more like one than Jose Mourinho.
We’ve taken a look the ways in which Southgate is doing all the things many fans want to see at Old Trafford.
Southgate has overseen an overhaul of England’s playing style; underpinned by an emphasis on solid technique and bravery on the ball.
The tactical approach that overlays that may alter; at the World Cup, he was not afraid to emphasise set-pieces, but the faith in playing the ball out and encouraging players to play is unwavering.
He shoehorned Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard into a side that had Kieran Trippier and Ashley Young bombing on during the summer; before unleashing the front three that tore Spain apart last night.
Gareth’s got England playing how United should.
Faith in youth
Young players are at the very forefront of Southgate’s thinking. Faced with an unappealing choice of experienced players, such as Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, the former Middlesbrough boss looked to see what was coming through.
He has found a hugely talented generation of players; they have a much greater ceiling and can take England where they want to go.
His squads are getting younger and it’s paying off. Mourinho will never take such an approach; Axel Tuanzebe and Timothy Fosu-Mensah should be blooded to replace Jones and Smalling but both are out on loan.
Southgate’s approach has emboldened the likes of the aforementioned Trippier, Harry Maguire and Jordan Pickford.
The Leicester man was not even on Mourinho’s radar when he joined the Foxes in 2017; Southgate’s faith transformed him into a player the Portuguese wanted for £70m this summer.
How many of United’s players have got better under Mourinho? It is tough to think of even one. Southgate does not have the pick of global talent, unlike Mourinho, and is still creating a team that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Dealing with the media
This is perhaps where the difference is most marked. Mourinho’s press conferences are often tetchy, coded and an exercise in self-preservation; Southgate’s are the opposite.
The Englishman is humble, forthright and impressive in front of the media and you get the impression he is the same with his players.
Southgate represents his country with pride and distinction; Mourinho often sullies the club’s name with his childlike antics.
Southgate isn’t ready for the United job and he has a long-term project with England. But he is outstripping Mourinho across the board and is showing all the hallmarks of a Manchester United manager. One day, maybe…