As this extremely strange season kicked off, a completely new-look United side took its time to settle as it stumbled rather than negotiated its way through the first month.
But then it clicked.
Continuing our look back at his first 12-months with the club, we wondered if the speed of the turnaround from a relegation haunted club to one that looks comfortable with its current top seven standing had taken Chris Beech by surprise.
“Yes and no,” he replied. “Yes because you never can tell, but no because we were thorough with our recruitment strategy.
“We’re doing well, but I still feel we can do better. Overall I’m pleased with the start we’ve had and with the attitude of the players, and the energy they bring to their work, because this is all new to them too.
“The number of debuts we’ve had through my year here will be very high, never mind for Carlisle but actually in terms of football firsts. When we played Hayes it was Marcus Dewhurst’s first game, Jack Armer’s second start, Max Hunt’s had only had half a dozen games, so these lads are all developing with us. I want us to keep growing things like that.
“We have to keep it up, that’s the key. We were getting mini-records when I first came with things like back-to-back clean sheets and winning a game by two clear goals, and things like that, and those were important first steps.
“At the start of this season we’ve managed to break or equal a few bigger records, and full credit to everybody for that. But, if I’m being honest, and I’ve said this before, these things are good to hear but it’s a bit of a ‘so what’ moment for me.
“People tell me things I don’t know – Crawley hadn’t been beaten at home for over a year, for example – but does that really matter that we managed it? Yes, of course, but not because of the stat, but more because it’s three more points that we needed. That’s what really matters.
“We beat Newport and it turns out we hadn’t beaten a top of the league team for over five years but, again, so what. Yeah, good, of course, but it’s the three points that matter, not the stat behind it, because I want something tangible to touch at the end of it all for our efforts.
“These little records and stats don’t count for anything if nothing is achieved by them, and that’s when they soon get forgotten.”
But is there anything about the job that has surprised him?
“Everything,” he joked. “It’s amazing where your days can take you and I’d love to do a podcast somewhere down the line where you can tell the real truth.
“Seriously though, I enjoy it, and I do feel like every day is my first day. I’m working hard to get it right for us all and the culture and environment I try to create within the players is something I want to create right through the club.
“I want the fans to feel closer to the players, the staff and, in fact, to everything because this is their club. We’re here doing our jobs as well as we can, but it’s always their club.
“You rarely get people doing an Andrew Jenkins these days and staying for a long time, so we’re custodians of our jobs and within that we have to do our best to do what’s right for our supporters.”
And those supporters have certainly developed a soft spot for their manager, albeit from afar.
“I haven’t seen anybody since March so I don’t know if the fans like me or not!” he told us. “I’ve done a few birthday wishes and an online quiz or two, and I think I missed five of the questions out that night so I wasn’t very good, even though they were nice and said I hosted it well.
“I know the rapport is there, and I know why it’s there, and I know if we start losing it won’t be there for much longer. In football it doesn’t matter if people relate to you as a person or not, you’ve just got to win games.
“Again, that’s why it’s important that you understand why you aren’t winning, and why you are, so that you can develop and learn constantly.
“Football is changing all the time and some clubs now focus on surviving by developing their assets so that they can continue to survive by selling them on, and that’s their model. They invest heavily in their youth departments to look to achieve that.
“I’m ambitious and I want to do well and develop a winning team at a club with a winning mentality. I’ll hopefully try not to pretend to be somebody I’m not and I’ll always do my best for everybody I work with.
“Sometimes that involves not always getting what you want, but that’s when you adapt so that you can keep moving forward.”
Always a topic of discussion is which of the players in the squad will stay with the club and which will move on, but as soon as we mentioned on Twitter that we were doing this interview we were asked to find out what the contract situation was with the manager as 2020 continues to tick towards 2021.
“I’m contracted, I enjoy the job and I enjoy working at the club,” he said. “Contracts are strange now, it’s not like it used to be, and it’s nothing for people to get hung up about.
“In football you’re only ever as strong as the severance clause, not the length of your contract, because things can change so quickly.
“I don’t answer questions with thoughts about myself and what should be done about me when I’m asked about this, because it isn’t my place to do that.
“I’m an employee, doing a job to the best of my ability, and it’s up to others to make that kind of call. I’ll keep doing my best whatever, because I want to be successful and I want the club to keep heading the right way.”
Having faced the opening batsman style ‘push back up the wicket’ with that particular question, we wondered if he felt that the manager role was something new, or if it was just something else to be taken in his stride.
“In my head I’ve managed from the day I started coaching at Bury,” he explained. “I managed a youth system, I made it stronger and better, and people like Dale Stephens came through to go on to play in the Premier League.
“Other good players came through and it was a system where I managed the staff, everything. I moved to Rochdale to continue that and having helped Keith Hill for so long, I always thought as a manager anyway.
“I like to be challenging, I like to get people to look at what they do and how it can be better, and I want everyone to make great strides.
“The manager often gets all of the praise, but it’s the staff behind the work who deserve much of the praise, because they have to make it all happen.”
“You do have to adapt on a new role, of course you do,” he added. “I came here on my own, and that was pretty daunting because nobody thinks like you, and there’s an inner circle of trust that you have to earn the right to be part of.
“It’s a precarious position to be in, when you arrive at a new place, so you have to build relationships and that’s when you can start to make things work.
“I have to say that Gav Skelton has been superb and I can’t thank him enough for his support. I feel that we’re getting stronger every day that we work together and, along with the other staff, we’ve taken things to a better place than where it was.
“My previous experiences have put me in quite a unique situation really because I’ve been working in a first team environment for such a long time. I can’t remember when I did my pro licence, it was so long ago, so the job is new but it’s not, if you get what I mean.”
“The approach from me will always be that as long as we keep working hard we’ll continue to progress,” he concluded. “As long as people support that process we’ll be giving ourselves an excellent chance, whatever difficulties we face along the way.
“Everything plateaus somewhere down the line and you’ve got to try to be ahead of that. We can talk about budgets, facilities, whatever, and sometimes we do, but if it isn’t there you have to find another way. That’s where hard work comes into it.
“If you can’t buy answers look at what you can do. I’ve always worked in challenging environments and it doesn’t change, it’s about doing what you can do with what you have in front of you.
“I feel like we’ve got a lot of good people here and we all want success. That’s not a bad starting point for anything.”