David Moyes has the unenviable task of following the most successful manager in the history of English football as his Manchester United seek to repeat the dose after last season’s final Premier League title under Sir Alex Ferguson.
United are 5/2 to win the league for the second successive season and the sixth time in the last eight years.
The second of those points illustrates just how much of a shadow the key members of this squad have cast over the English top flight in recent memory and the winning mentality already instilled in the squad will be of huge benefit to the incoming boss.
Probably the most important step Moyes has taken in his Old Trafford tenure to date is to forge a close bond with some of the team’s most senior figures, with Ryan Giggs given coaching responsibilities and the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Michael Carrick and Nemanja Vidic canvassed for opinions during pre-season training.
In the hands of a manager not blessed with so fine a touch when it comes to squad dynamics and team-spirit fostering, United’s core of ultra-experienced players could have wrought havoc if they’d wished to – as Andre Villas-Boas found to his cost at Chelsea – but Moyes seems unlikely to suffer a similar mutiny and this sense of harmonious continuity will be in his favour.
The Red Devils’ pre-season tour of Asia was hardly an ideal preparation for the start of the new campaign in terms of quality, but they way in which they rolled over a Wigan side two games into their own season in the Community Shield confirmed the side lack nothing in terms of sharpness.
Perhaps the biggest problem for United has been a lack of transfer dealings, which has meant that whilst title rivals Manchester City have moved forward they have merely been treading water.
A player who can provide an adequate transition between Red Devils’ quarterback Michael Carrick and creative forwards like Shinji Kagawa is a particularly pressing need – with Tom Cleverley and Anderson impressing only sporadically – but days from the start of the 2013/14 campaign there are still no new midfield faces at the training ground.
Furthermore, this imbalance in midfield is demonstrative of a wider issue in the United squad that even Moyes’ sage predecessor had arguably been failing to get to grips with, namely the ideal way to set his team up tactically with the resources he has.
With the exception of Robin Van Persie, Michael Carrick, Patrice Evra and possibly Rafael, players came in and out of the starting line-up last term with a regularity which could undermine squad cohesion and understanding.
For Moyes working out how to field his best XI is likely to be a source of much head-scratching over the coming months.