Despite the Premier League returning to Old Trafford in May, dark clouds have hung over Old Trafford since Sir Alex walked off into the sunshine. David Moyes has taken over but, despite cruising to the title, United are now many people's third-favourites to retain their crown. This is largely because of the club's inability so far to strengthen the squad, especially while, across town, City have quietly added real quality. United were led down the longest of garden paths over Cesc Fabregas, and though United's intentions were good, the manner of their pursuit was not. Guillermo Varela is the club's only summer arrival - Wilfried Zaha signed in January - and the gaping hole in the middle of United's midfield remains unfilled.
David Moyes has endured a difficult start to life in the Old Trafford hot seat, with pre-season preparations on and off the pitch being less smooth than he might have hoped. Things are not about to get any easier, not least anytime soon, given United's extremely difficult start to the Premier League season. That said, few supporters hold him entirely responsible for the club's failings in the transfer market so far, and wins over Chelsea and/or Liverpool will endear him even further to the Red Army. It was never going to be easy.
Ins and Outs
- Guillermo Varela - £2.4m
- Paul Scholes - Retired
This is a huge season for Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck but Valencia is under even greater pressure. The Ecuadorian last season was a shadow of the winger he was two years ago.
Robin van Persie
With or without Wayne Rooney, the importance of van Persie cannot be overstated. If the number 10 gets the transfer he supposedly craves then, last season's top scorer carries United's only regular goalscoring threat.
Nemanja Vidic has the armband but injuries and some patchy form mean the captain is no longer seen as United's most important defender. Rio Ferdinand, for many, is now the main man.
Strengths & Weaknesses
United conceded more home and away than City and Chelsea last season, with the back four still craving a central midfielder who can help Michael Carrick with the shielding job. The champions' strength comes in the depth of their squad. Whatever United lacked in star quality last season was compensated for by the strength of the group. That, though, might not be enough after the recruitment of their main rivals.
Moyes has targeted a goalscoring midfielder and Fabregas - one of the few remaining midfielder all-rounders - would have been perfect. That, though, appears not to be. A double bid is likely to be submitted for Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini, but many United fans remain unconvinced that the Everton pair possess the quality needed to help United reach the level of the Spainish giants and Bayern Munich. The club certainly need one marquee signing, especially if they eventually cave in and let Wayne Rooney leave. There is also a number seven shirt that needs to be filled and the dreamers among the United faithful still have not given up hope of seeing Cristiano Ronaldo or Gareth Bale in red next season. More of a priority, though, is United's soft centre in midfield.
"Manchester United go after the best players in the world."
"I see the hunger. I am pleased with that because we will definitely need it if we are going to achieve what we want this season."
Facts and Figures
Man Utd hit the woodwork 24 times, more than any other side
United won 28 games in the Premier League in 2012-13
United did not draw a single home game last season
United managed the best shot conversion rate in the Premier League in 2012-13
The Red Devils had 20 different goal scorers in 2012-13, a record spread in a single season.
Like Chelsea and Man City, I think Manchester United should be expecting a league title. Whoever finishes second and third will be disappointed and that's what makes the league so exciting. There's three new managers and only one of them can be successful in the league. I like David Moyes, I think he's done a great job at Everton and as local rivals to ourselves I know him a little bit. I think he deservedly got the job, but this is another level up and he's aware of that. What he never did at Everton was win trophies - and it's difficult to win trophies at Everton - but he'll be expected to do so now.