It has been a summer of change in England. Of the country’s four qualifiers for the UEFA Champions League, only Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger remains as manager. Manchester City’s trophyless season hastened Roberto Mancini’s departure, Rafael Benitez’s tenure at Chelsea was only temporary, and after 26 successful years at Old Trafford, Sir Alex Ferguson called time on his managerial career.
The legendary Scot handpicked his successor, compatriot David Moyes, who spent the last 11 years at Everton. During that time he turned the Toffees from relegation battlers into European contenders under severe financial restrictions. He has been handed a tough start. After opening at Swansea City, Moyes will tackle a first Old Trafford league meeting against Jose Mourinho's Chelsea, before a visit to Liverpool.
As well as a new face in the dug-out, United fans may also be welcoming different names on the pitch. Just as the famous English club have witnessed the Busby babes and Fergie’s fledglings, could Moyes’ minions make an impact in 2013/14?
Certainly the early signs are promising. Youngsters Jesse Lingard, Wilfried Zaha and Adnan Januzaj all played key roles in the five-game Asian tour and have put themselves in contention for a first-team place. Lingard, 20, ended the tour as United’s top scorer with four goals, while Zaha, 20, and Januzaj, 18, also got themselves on the score-sheet.
He’s a raw talent with great individual skills who can only get better. The early signs are he’s a hard worker who wants to improve and be a top footballer.
Following their Asian experience, Moyes said: "A couple of the young lads, Adnan and Jesse Lingard, who I didn't know as much about, did well, and Wilfried Zaha, who has just joined, has shown what he is capable of in the games he has played. I think they will go away from the trip feeling they have contributed to it."
United defender Rio Ferdinand has been particularly impressed by Zaha’s early contribution. “The thing that has most impressed me about Wilf is his raw ability,” he said. “He’s quick and direct, but what has surprised me more than anything is how quickly he gets his shots off. He’s a winger, but he seems to have a hunger to get inside and cause trouble in the opponents’ box, and that’s a good thing to have.
"He’s a raw talent with great individual skills who can only get better. The early signs are he’s a hard worker who wants to improve and be a top footballer.”
Zaha was rewarded with a starting berth at Wembley in United’s 2-0 Community Shield win over Wigan Athletic last weekend, while 18-year-old Belgian Januzaj came off the bench. Although Lingard was not included in the match-day squad he was on hand for the subsequent celebrations as United emerged victorious thanks to Robin van Persie's double.
"Celebrating in the dressing room after winning a trophy is always a fantastic feeling," said defender Smalling. "It just makes you hungrier to do it again. It's great for some of the new lads like Wilf, Jesse and Adnan to experience that feeling. It really gets you in the zone and shows you what you're fighting for.
"This manager is the same as the previous manager when it comes to giving young players a chance. He gave them a good chance on tour and they've shown what they can do. It can be quite daunting when you go away with the first team for a few weeks but they've really bedded in."
Mourinho back, City spend big
While United won the first silverware of the Premier League season comfortably, the battle for the league title will not be so straightforward. Mourinho’s return to Stamford Bridge has been greeted with joy by press and punters. The self-proclaimed ‘Special One’ is looking to prove the adage ‘never go back’ wrong and claim the Champions League he failed to land in his first spell with the club. The Portuguese appears to have mellowed following his spells with Inter Milan and Real Madrid, but Mourinho is sure to provide plenty of moments during the course of the campaign.
In contrast to the character of Mourinho is the composed Chilean Manuel Pellegrini, who is unlikely to become involved in any heavy verbal exchanges, or the so-called mind games, which have so often been utilised by the managers of England’s elite. He has already been backed by City’s wealthy owners to the tune of around £90m for the signings Alvaro Negredo, Jesus Navas, Fernandinho and Stevan Jovetic.
Across the north-west, this year’s FA Cup winning-manager Roberto Martinez has left relegated Wigan for a new challenge at Everton, while Brendan Rodgers will be hoping to reverse the recent trend on Merseyside and help his Liverpool team to finish above their rivals.
In London, Arsene Wenger will be looking to end a run of eight years without a trophy, while Andre Villas-Boas will be hoping to go one step further at Tottenham Hotspur by finishing in the top four.