Matt Stanger saw Angel Di Maria display flashes of his talent at Turf Moor, but United's 0-0 draw against Burnley underlined that Louis van Gaal has his work cut out for him...
With a new stadium and back into European domestic football's premier competition, there are plenty of reasons for smiles from Athletico Bilbao supporters...
GK: Rob Green
You're an England goalkeeper. You're just shaking off a lard-handed mistake which allowed a rapping American to make you look ridiculous in South Africa. You've had a reasonable career thus far, but you fancy a change largely because your hamstrings are feeling the strain of making so many punts in the direction of that big lad at the other end of the field (just a little gag there, Hammers fans, calm down). As your contract is running out, you tell your agent to find you a new club, and he delivers the goods with gusto, landing you a fat contract at a club firing big lumps of money at passing footballers from a t-shirt cannon. You play your first game, and it doesn't go to plan, conceding five at home. Your manager doesn't take it well, and promptly signs another keeper - one who won the Champions League two years ago. You reach for your phone, and scroll down to your agent's number again.
RB: Alan Hutton
No so much one for the 'Wait, he's still there?' files, as 'Wait, he's still alive?' Perhaps the most surprising thing about Hutton is that he played a credulity-busting 29 times for Villa last season, which perhaps says more about Alex McLeish's judgement than it does about Hutton, but also plenty about what a rancid state the club found itself. The good news for all right-thinking Villa fans is that Paul Lambert has not deemed him suitable to even be on the bench for any of Villa's games thus far this season. The bad news for Scotland fans is that Craig Levein believes him to be perfectly adequate, since he's started all three of his national team's games thus far. Sheesh.
LB: Jose Enrique
Of the five big (ish) names signed in the Great Liverpool Cash Spunk Of 2011, Enrique was, for most of last season, regarded as the most successful purchase. That may have been down to his solid early-season form, it may have been down to the other four being, to one extent or another, failures (with the possible exception of Jordan Henderson, because he tries hard, bless him). However, to use the most delicate language possible, the arse fell out of Enrique's form at some point in the second half of last season, to the extent that Brendan Rodgers would rather play 18-year-olds, right-backs and even Stewart Downing at left-back than Enrique. And for an explanation as to why, have a look at the last time Rodgers trusted him from the start, in the Europa League against Young Boys. It was...boy...it was not good.
CB: Matt Kilgallon
Kilgallon has been at Sunderland for nearly three years now, and he has clocked up a grand total of 15 starts. Move on, Matthew, move on.
CB: Danny Wilson
Purchased as one for the future in 2010, Wilson's time at Anfield has only been marginally more successful than the rest of the recruits from that golden summer. But while Paul Konchesky and Joe Cole have, to varying extents, found contentment elsewhere, Wilson's past two years have been spent in the Liverpool reserves, with the odd League Cup/Europa League outing and six games on loan at Blackpool last season to prevent him from getting bed sores. With Martin Skrtel, Dan Agger, Jamie Carragher, Sebastian Coates, Martin Kelly and probably Andre Widsom ahead of him in the pecking order, his prospects of breaking into the first team any time soon are slim, and while he's still only 20, he might want to think about a move before his career starts to stagnate.
CM: Wilson Palacios
If Wilson Palacios is a man who knows how to take a hint, then presumably he'll be packing his bags fairly soon. For it's not a great sign when you're not exactly first-choice anyway (he made nine starts last season), then your team spends the summer shopping for central midfielders, skipping back home with four of them in their Bag For Life. You seem like a nice guy, Wilson, so it's time to find somewhere that will love you.
CM: Andrey Arshavin
Poor little Andrey. In some ways it's a shame that his time at Arsenal hasn't worked out - largely because he's hardly had a chance to play in his favourite position. Stuck out on the wing for the majority of his three years in London, Arshavin was barely able to influence the game as he did for Russia and Zenit St Petersburg, where he was a more central playmaker, something that Arsene Wenger only just seemed to discover after his appearance there in the League Cup against Coventry. "At the moment he's a victim of the high level of competition that exists for places," said Wenger last month. "He has a huge respect from everybody in the dressing room, and especially from the staff," he continued, not adding, "and he's also available at a very reasonable price, hardly any damage, lovely cheeky little grin." With at least four players ahead of him on the flanks, and Santi Cazorla inducing tented trousers for Gooners everywhere, January cannot come soon enough for Arshavin.
CM: Stewart Downing
Sure, it's stretching things to call Stewart Downing a central midfielder, but this is a top-heavy XI and we need him to do a job in the middle. Insert own 'If he can be a left-back.../he can't be any worse than out wide' jokes here. Downing is an interesting case, because while Liverpool will not want to take a heavy hit on a player they spent so much on not too long ago, nobody in their right minds will pay anything more than about £5million for him these days. Still, Rodgers is saying all the things a manager who wanted to force a player out would say - suggesting a bizarre change in position, questioning his commitment - so it seems relatively clear that Downing is not exactly in his plans. Youth is the way forward for Brendan, and even at 28, Downing is old hat.
FW: Kenwyne Jones
Over £16million has been spent on Jones in the last few years. When Stoke splashed the latter half of that sum on him in 2010, it looked like a perfect fit, but two seasons, 43 starts and only ten goals later, it hasn't been quite the bruising fairytale that we imagined. As much as anything, it must be pretty demoralising to sit on the bench (next to Michael Owen) and watch Jonathan Walters selected ahead of you every sodding week. Will someone give a powerful and erratic striker a home?
FW: Connor Wickham
We at F365 have never quite seen what everyone else does in Wickham. Sure, he's big and strong - and has been since he was 16 - but he's supposed to be a striker. His goalscoring record at Ipswich was 13 in 33 starts, which is respectable for sure, but worthy of that amount of hype? It probably doesn't help that various managers appear to think he's a winger, but what is clear from the evidence we have so far is that a) He's not worth £8.1million and b) he needs football. He has started just five games since joining Sunderland, and while a sale would seem hasty, a loan move to a team who will play him to his strengths is surely required.
FW: Federico Macheda
Do you think young Federico wakes in the middle of the night screaming 'Maaaacchhheeeeeddddaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!', picturing that extraordinary goal against Aston Villa back in 2009? For that remains the high point of a career that has, despite the promise that goal suggested, stalled rather in the intervening years. He is fifth-choice forward in a team that occasionally only plays with one, and after 20 games and no goals in a couple of loan spells at Sampdoria and QPR didn't go well (as much to do with circumstance as anything - the managers that signed him for those clubs were both sacked shortly afterwards), Macheda's thoughts must be turning to a permanent exit from Old Trafford. Sir Alex Ferguson seems to still think plenty of him, saying as recently as March: "He is so unlucky. I have complete belief in the boy. He could be an outstanding player. But he needs football." Will that football come at United? It seems doubtful.
Manager: Brendan Rodgers
If he doesn't get a striker in the coming window, a dirty protest is surely on the cards.
Nick Miller - he's on Twitter