Featuring XI players who have been in pre-season action for Premier League clubs who you might be forgiven for forgetting. Like N'Zogbia, Boyata, Obertan and...
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Premier League 1st FA Cup sixth round League Cup fourth round Champions League last 16
Manager David Moyes (since July 2013) Odds on being first out of his job 50-1 (18th=)
Players in Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace, end of loan after January £15m transfer), Guillermo Varela (Penarol, £2.4m)
Players out Paul Scholes (released)
Club turnover in 2011-12 £320m (1st)
Handicap betting to win Premier League +1 point (2nd=)
"I find it hard to believe that's the way the balls came out of the bag, that's for sure," David Moyes said of the opening fixtures in which Manchester United will face Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City inside five games. It is good to see Sir Alex Ferguson's successor fitting right in at Old Trafford, talking balls already.
The perception of bias against United in the shape of the fixture list is well-established; Ferguson would complain either a) that United were away after a lot of Champions League matches, or b) away after international weekends, without ever acknowledging that unless United played only home games through the autumn then one or other was inevitable. It is unfortunate for the new manager that he faces such a difficult start but paranoia - "I hope it's not because Manchester United won the league quite comfortably last year [that] the fixtures have been made much more difficult" - seems to come with the territory.
Then again, a lot of people do seem to be against Moyes - starting with Wayne Rooney, whose desire to leave United has been matched by the desire not to join United or to sell to United that has left the new manager without a major signing.
Ferguson was not the only man to move upstairs at United this summer; David Gill did so likewise, with Ed Woodward becoming chief executive. Gill had his critics among United fans but his skill in negotiations served the club well. Moyes, for the first time in his managerial career, has had money to spend and now can consider which is more frustrating: not having it or being unable to spend it. Maybe that irritation is showing in the attack on the integrity of the Premier League fixture compilers.
He remains hopeful of raiding Everton for Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines before the transfer window shuts, but everything is complicated by the Rooney problem. Moyes's own words helped the crisis build, when he said in mid-July: "Wayne can play up on his own, he can play dropped in. Overall my thought on Wayne is, if for any reason we had an injury to Robin van Persie, we'll need him." No doubt all true, but not diplomatic.
United's logic in refusing to countenance selling Rooney to Chelsea is impeccable with regard to not offering comfort to the enemy. Moyes has reiterated that position, following the initial newspaper reports. But he will have to find a rapprochement with a disaffected striker and a way to get him match-fit on scraps, and defuse the potentially explosive reaction of supporters towards a player who has attempted to engineer moves to Manchester City and now Chelsea within a short span.
Yet whatever the problems these are the champions of England Moyes has taken charge of and even without reinforcements United would be formidable opponents this season. Manchester City have had a productive summer, happy to overpay to strengthen their squad. Between now and the window closing money is likely to tell for Moyes, even if it does not secure a long-term target such as Cesc Fabregas. Perhaps it will be Fellaini and Baines.
Pre-season has been overshadowed by the Rooney row and some disappointing results, even if Moyes picked up a first piece of senior silverware in the shape of the Community Shield. He will do his best to keep Ferguson's squad together and they in turn will do their best for him; it is a superb squad he has inherited, with an unmatched self-belief. With Ferguson on the board and Moyes his choice as successor, the younger Scot has the comfort of knowing he should be granted some time in which to succeed. The other early matches, starting on Saturday evening, are away to Swansea and then home to Crystal Palace, after the international break. Given that they have a tough start, it will be no surprise to know that both December and the run-in are very friendly.
Overall, though, Manuel Pellegrini had had the chance to bed his signings in and City have lost some key sources of internal strife this year. The pressure will be on the Chilean too, but he has more to be happy about than Moyes right now. And at least with regard to the Premier League, I expect the Scot to be the unhappier of the pair come the final final whistle in May.