One Mailboxer inserts his tongue into cheek to offer his thoughts on Liverpool's newest signing. Plus thoughts on league-owned clubs, badges, and swearing...
With only two weeks to go until the start of the season, Man United still have plenty of work to do in the transfer market. It seems the enormity of the task is dawning on Van Gaal...
Jurgen Klopp keeps saying no, Ryan Giggs will have the reins for at least a few weeks, but sooner or later someone will say yes to Manchester United. The lack of Champions League football, the poor state of Sir Alex Ferguson's legacy exacerbated under David Moyes and Ed Woodward, and the uncertainty of life under the Glazers will be compensated for by, well, compensation: United will pay shed loads of money.
And whoever arrives will be given another shed load, or maybe a gazebo, to spend on players who are likewise willing to forgo a year of elite level action in exchange for a swollen bank balance. Probably sooner rather than later, United will be back competing, even if they are having to rebuild in circumstances similar to those under which City had to construct, with a weaker playing base than Chelsea had when Roman Abramovich bought Ken Bates's debt-laden club (but who had scraped into the Champions League qualifiers) in 2003.
Maybe as soon as next season United will be back challenging, but the incoming manager should not underestimate the battle they will face, then and for the foreseeable future.
Moyes's failures against the major clubs - winning just once and drawing three times in 12 attempts against the six teams ahead of Manchester United in the table - were of course a significant contributory factor to his failure. However, we should remember that the predictions that he was arriving at Old Trafford at a time of increasingly strong and widespread challenges to United have proved accurate.
Comparing this season to last, Liverpool have six more points than they achieved against Ferguson's team in their two matches, Chelsea have five more, Manchester City three more, Arsenal as many, Everton three more, Tottenham just as many. That accounts for 17 of the 27 points fewer that United have after 34 matches this season, but not all of the increases achieved by their rivals.
Discounting the additional points picked up against United, Liverpool have found a further 20 points over their total from the same number of games last season and Everton seven, Arsenal six and Chelsea a couple, while Manchester City are level pegging and even Tottenham are down only a couple. The figures are a touch misleading before we have a full season because the clubs had remaining matches of varying quality to play a year ago, but the point is clear enough: Moyes's United were up against improved and improving opposition in the top echelon, or at least better able to punish a weakened bottom 13.
Some of this was unpredictable - Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool were a work in very little apparent progress last summer, missing out on transfer targets, and Roberto Martinez was still at a Wigan side heading for relegation when Ferguson quit - but the consensus was that Roberto Mancini had made a mess of Manchester City's title defence and that Chelsea were likely to offer a renewed challenge, while Arsenal were not going to vanish. Moyes performed poorly but he was dropped into a more hostile environment than Ferguson faced most years. That is not going to change for the next manager.
Indeed while United will strengthen, so will most of the teams ahead of them at present. Everton are the ones who face the greatest struggle to do so; Martinez's use of loans is to be praised not derided but he will know that it is a trick he may have to repeat each summer, unless he can get his team into the Champions League. But the rest will all spend and Tottenham, who splashed out so much for so little as Gareth Bale left, may also find that some of last summer's signings improve significantly after a year in England, if given a chance.
United have dominated for more than two decades, and rarely had to battle more than one serious rival at a time. Those days are not coming back in a hurry and any United fans expecting a big-name manager to bring them back is likely to be in for disappointment.