The longest of foregone conclusions will play out at Old Trafford tonight 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.
Manchester United stars will not be given time off even though they finished in the top four
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said his most important players won't be rested in the weeks ahead
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.
United secured a Champions League place by finishing third in the Premier League but Solskjaer has made it clear he wants to win the Europa League
It means the likes of Paul Pogba (right) and Anthony Martial (left) will be busy over the summer
‘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