The longest of foregone conclusions will play out at Old Trafford on Wednesday night when Manchester United complete the formality of eliminating LASK Linz from the Europa League.
While United left the Linzer Stadion after a 5-0 first-leg win in March knowing their place in the quarter-finals was all but guaranteed, they did not think it would take almost five months to finish the job.
The competition resumes on Wednesday and reaches a conclusion on August 21.
It is an unprecedented situation that will mean United playing four times in 17 days — one game in Manchester and three more in a mini-tournament in Cologne — if they are to win this trophy again.
In 2017, Jose Mourinho needed victory to secure a place in the Champions League. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has already achieved that by finishing third in the Premier League, but he remains determined to land his first piece of silverware as United manager.
Solskjaer will make changes for Wednesday’s second leg against the Austrians. But he is set to bring back his key men for Monday’s quarter-final in Cologne — even though this will be United’s 12th game since the restart in June and the new Premier League season is fast approaching next month.
‘The players want to play, they don’t want the break,’ he said.
‘They’re bothering me all the time that they don’t want to rest, they want to play. It’s not easy to say they’re rested, especially with players of that quality.
‘We go into this with players wanting to win, so they won’t be given a break — they’ll be called upon.
‘We’re four games away from winning a trophy. We’re delighted with finishing third and the next step for this team is getting their hands on a trophy.
‘We’ve been to two semi-finals this season in the FA Cup and Carabao Cup and we want to go one further and win something.’
United’s players will have more opportunity to rest when the campaign is over.
The Premier League agreed in principle on Tuesday to allow the four English teams still in Europe — United, Manchester City, Chelsea, and Wolves — extra time off when the 2020-21 season kicks off on September 12.
‘Hopefully we will get help if we go through to the end so we can start a bit later,’ added Solskjaer.
‘It’s been a special year for the whole world.
‘I’ll look after the players. We’ll give them time off to recharge, maybe a couple of weeks. These boys look after themselves in the breaks they have.
‘I’ve always been impressed how they look when they come back. After lockdown, we’ve been one of the fittest teams.’
United will set up camp in Cologne this weekend despite holding talks over the possibility of flying into the German city for each game.
‘There’s been a discussion at a higher level than me as to how the tournament will pan out,’ confirmed Solskjaer.
‘You could look at it as just one game and you travel to an away game, but it looks like we’re staying for the tournament.’
Addressing the importance of winning a first trophy, he added: ‘It’s massive. When I won my first trophy as a player it made me more hungry because you saw the highs and how much it meant to everyone.
‘As a coach, I won the league in Norway with Molde.
‘It was the first time in the club’s 100-year history and since then they have won it four times in nine years.
‘If we can get our hands on a trophy it’s a big step forward. I hope the players need to win, like I do.’