New manager, new impetus. Even a new sponsor! Manchester United have a reloaded and are raring to go ahead of the new season, but is anyone taking them truly seriously?
There have been major developments in and around Old Trafford to rectify a campaign that most feel is best forgotten, and so far, everything seems to have gone to plan.
There are no real question marks over the new boss. With Moyes there were endless questions about his ability to manage a team at the very top. These questions were answered in a not so pleasant fashion. Ferguson's hand picked successor has been replaced by the impressive Louis Van Gaal.
Van Gaal was picked at an interesting time. Having signed a pre-contract coming into effect after Holland's World Cup campaign, the United hierarchy might have been left with egg on their face if the boys in orange had come home earlier than expected. But alas, no one ever needed worry as Van Gaal's men trounced the world champions 5-1 in incredible fashion in their opening game, including a wonder goal from Van Persie followed by a celebration that would have united fans purring with excitement.
The Netherlands lost out to Argentina in the semi-finals but the man in charge had already done enough to impress his new awaiting fans and colleagues. A 3-0 win against hosts brazil in third-place play off would end the campaign in style.
So United had their new manager. The question was, could he make an immediate (good) impression on the team. After the previous campaign one might think the squad were just happy to have a new face telling them what to do. Louis also did what Moyes didn't (and probably should have done), he hired from within. Van Gaal made club legend Ryan Giggs his assistant, which not only seems clever and fairly obvious, but will put him right in the fans good books. Had Moyes done something similar rather than bring in his Everton lot, we might have seen the Scot's reign go a little differently.
Straight away though it seemed Van Gaal was going to rubber stamp his ideas on everyone whether they liked it or not. It has obviously worked, as United have finished their pre-season unbeaten. While doing so, it seems they have a completely rejuvenated squad. Wayne Rooney looks like he is finally settled and showing off the talent he undeniably has and with this has been made club captain. Fringe players are getting the chances they thought they'd never get with the major players being told their places are up for grabs. The youth are getting the run outs they need and the club look like a major force again. With a regiment and order such as this its as if Sir Alex never left!
So, the manager is sorted. Onto the season itself. This will sound alien to anyone that's heard but, and it maybe hard to believe, Manchester United aren't in the Champions League this year. That's right, not even the Europa League!
An unfathomable circumstance, right? Its like telling Fergie there's no chewing gum. Some would feel that this means players will want to leave in the search of midweek European nights. Well, no, it seems to have had the complete opposite effect. No player supposedly wants to leave, they're all working hard to secure their place in the starting eleven and its taken the manager to tell the press that he's selling certain players for people to even smell a whiff of a transfer out of the club! Every boss' dream!
With this comes the vital notion that not a lot of people realise, the weekly rest. It ensures that the players will not have to board a flight out of the country and can instead focus on recharging themselves for the next league fixture. That gives teams a massive advantage over their rivals and means they have double the practice time ahead of their opponents. A point made about Wigan Athletic with their promotion campaign from the Championship and their inclusion in last years Europa League.
Of course, depending on how the season pans out, United may still have to content with domestic cup dates, but these draws would all be within the UK and one would very much doubt they would come with the pressure a European fixture could bring.
The only major pro that other teams would have over the Red Devils is their spending. Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea have been spending over the odds to try and outdo each other over the course of the campaign. Add to that the money Brendan Rodgers' men have received through the sale of Luis Suarez and that gap widens.
Not to say Van Gaal hasn't brought anyone in, but Herrera is an untested choice from an above average La Liga team. He may be a young starlet yes but when you compare him with the likes of Fabregas and Sanchez, the kid has a long way still to go. You pair that with England promise Luke Shaw, who's been criticised by LVG as not being fit enough to fit his style of play, as well as recently picking up a lengthy injury. Things start to look slightly threadbare.
Putting that aside, United have every chance of pushing for a title challenge this season. It's a whole new ball game this year and one that might just play right into the former champions hands.