Whereas Manchester United were still adding parts after the season had started in 2014/15, this time they are on the cusp of having their line-up close to completion with almost four weeks to go before the 2015/16 campaign commences.
The £31 million purchase of Memphis Depay was finalised over a month ago, the £12.7 million arrival of Torino right back Matteo Darmian was confirmed on Saturday and Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin are reported to have undergone medicals at Carrington.
Assuming those two deals go through this week, Man United will pretty much have everything in place to field a very strong side in Louis van Gaal’s favoured 4-3-3 formation, as supported by their move into [6.4] in the Premier League winner market.
The only remaining essential business will be to buy a back-up for Wayne Rooney if Robin van Persie and Javier Hernandez leave and a replacement to David de Gea if Real Madrid get their way with the Spain international.
So how would the 4-3-3 take shape? This writer sees Daley Blind and Darmian starting at full back, with Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia deputies. Centre-back options include Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans, though Sergio Ramos or Nicolas Otamendi may yet be thrown into the mix.
The midfield trio could simply be Michael Carrick and the two “Sch”-ignings, but the likelihood is that it will be a combination of two of those – quite possibly Schneiderlin and one of the 30-somethings – and Ander Herrera, whose creativity and greater attacking intent provides more variety.
There are several other alternatives to adjust their approach for different opponents, including Marouane Fellaini, Blind, Angel Di Maria and Juan Mata.
In terms of the front three, Memphis, Rooney and Mata seem like the obvious first-choice trident at present. Rooney is short of competition with Radamel Falcao gone and van Persie and Chicharito to follow, Memphis primarily featured as a left forward at PSV and Mata ended 2014/15 in impressive form on the right. Ashley Young, Adnan Januzaj and Di Maria would be able to offer cover out wide.
However, the Argentine’s lack of guaranteed starting role – verified by his time on the bench at the close of last season – mean that they will be tempted to cash in on their £59.7 million record signing if Paris St-Germain firm up their interest with a £47 million bid.
He is 5/6 on the Betfair Sportsbook to make that move.