Manchester United’s myriad international footballers will return from their globetrotting exploits to a testing run of fixtures that include three of last season’s top four in their first five games.
However, barring any major mishaps while the players are with their countries, United manager Louis van Gaal is expected to have the nearest thing to a fully fit squad since his competitive tenure at Old Trafford commenced, with his defence particularly bolstered.
It’s just as well given they’ll host Chelsea, then travel to those twin palaces of corporate emblazoning the Etihad and the Emirates before November is done and dusted.
Even the smaller fish they must fry first up upon their return come with a ‘handle with care’ sticker as West Brom, who they are 3/4 to beat at the Hawthorns later in the month, won 2-1 at Old Trafford under the departed Steve Clarke last season.
Yet United have the twin luxuries of a prolonged post-international rest and the kind of infusion of new blood that would make Lance Armstrong blush to aid them in getting what could prove to be a tricky spell off to an ideal start.
They play the Baggies on a Monday night, by which time the longest injury list in the Premier League could feasibly be empty.
At present Paddy McNair, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Johnny Evans, Luke Shaw, Michael Carrick, Ander Herrera, Ashely Young and Jesse Lingaard have all been suffering from mishaps of one kind or another.
All nine are, at the time of writing, expected to be available for the visit to the trip to the Midlands.
The fact that so many of the injured men were defenders should not be lost on those who have found cause to the Red Devils’ rearguarding capabilities in recent weeks and the 9/4 about the Old Trafford side repeating the win to nil they posted at the Hawthorns in 2013/14 looks all the more likely to cop thanks to their return to the fray.
Jones and Carrick, both played in the side that held Chelsea to a goalless draw on home soil at the start of the last campaign and defensive surety will be absolutely paramount when the league leaders and the division’s highest-scoring side (by some seven goals) visit the ‘Theatre of Dreams’.
While City have had the Red Devils’ number of the late, the meeting with Arsenal holds great promise of points, with United unbeaten in their last six meetings with Wenger’s men, drawing each of the last three.