London: What a difference an international break makes.
Before Europe`s top domestic leagues were interrupted by players jetting off around the world to play for their countries, Manchester United`s supposed new dawn under Louis van Gaal was obscured by dark clouds.
Two points from three very winnable league games and a humiliating Capital One Cup defeat by third tier Milton Keynes Dons had punctured all the optimism gleaned from an impressive pre-season.
On Sunday, at the fifth time of asking and after some serious cash-splashing at the end of the transfer window, Van Gaal could finally celebrate a win. His side crushed Queens Park Rangers 4-0 with the kind of football the Old Trafford faithful have been spoiled with over the past couple of decades.
A sensational display on his home debut by British record signing Angel di Maria, scorer of the first goal, lifted the mood and further goals from Ander Herrera, Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata confirmed the feeling that United`s season is under way.
The 67th minute appearance of Colombia striker Radamel Falcao, his first since joining on loan from Monaco, merely added to the party atmosphere.
"I said before the game `let us make a new start`," Van Gaal told MUTV. "That`s important as after 1 September, after the transfer period, we can now work on a team-building process and make ourselves better every week – we have done it, I believe.
"The most important thing from today is that we created goals. In the other matches we were the better team on the pitch but we didn`t make goals. Now we have made four goals and that gives a boost to every player.
"That`s also enormously important (for the fans) as they have had to wait a long time for a good result."
Di Maria oozed class and, while United paid a huge 59.7 million pounds ($97.14 million) for the services of the Argentine, he looked like a thoroughbred on Sunday - the kind of player the Old Trafford fans adore.
At first his opener looked a little lucky, his curling free kick evading everyone and creeping into the net past a surprised QPR keeper Robert Green, but while some would argue it was a cross, Van Gaal and Di Maria were both adamant it was meant.
"The first goal is very important, we trained with it before the game but he did it at the right moment," Van Gaal said.
"I think the new players fitted in very well. It`s always difficult to come in and adapt to the rhythm of the Premier League but they did very well – not only Di Maria."
The prospect of Falcao, Rooney, Robin van Persie and Di Maria, not to mention Mata, linking in attack for United will have many believing that not only a top-four position can be obtained, but United could even challenge for the title.
When he won the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich it took Van Gaal four matches to post his first league victory.
Far sterner tests than QPR await United, but with games against Leicester City and West Ham United next, it is not too fanciful to suggest that they could in or around the top four come the end of September.
With no European distractions, they will also be fresh when they take on Chelsea and Manchester City in October and November.
Yet while the feelgood factor appears to have returned after last year`s seventh place, Mata says there is a lot of hard work to come before United can start challenging at the summit.
"It is very important for us (to win)," he said.
"Hopefully it is the first step in a run of good results. It`s an important three points and now we will be training hard in the week and hopefully we will get another win next weekend."