Ronaldo and Tevez are history. Michael Owen is wearing the #7. The summer has been spectacularly unspectacular. You'd be forgiven to assume it's all a dream - a rather bad one at that. But here we are, less than a week to kick off. It all starts all over again.
There's no doubt that we are a weaker squad than last year. The usual "we've done well after losing superstars before" stories are being brandied about. Although true, they are'nt guranteed to repeat themselves every time. Even Fergie knows he's gambling - he's gambling on Nani and Anderson to establish themselves as regular first team players. He's gambling on Macheda and Welbeck coming through the ranks and providing cover and super cameos when required. He's gambling on the newcomers in Valencia, Owen and Obertan to settle in quickly. Then there are the injuries, the most critical of them being Owen Hargreaves - He's gambling that he will be ready to contribute come the business end of the season.
From the weekend's curtain raiser, there are some positives. Although goals will be an issue in the coming season, we did score twice against the toughest defensive unit in the league. The energy and possession in the first half were top notch. With a little better help from Foster it could have been won in regulation. Penalties have suddenly become a problem for the team - the sight of Evra stepping up before Owen and Rooney kinda says it all.
It will be interesting to see what system Fergie plays through the season. We've been promised Rooney through the middle but Nani's injury will probably put a lid on those plans right at the start. Fletcher is looking solid and I hope he and Carrick can forge a solid first team partnership at the centre of that midfield. Anderson, Giggs and Scholes can chip in when needed. I expect to see a lot of Valencia in the league. Park is going to feature a lot too, even for league fixtures at OT. Rio and Vidic are going to be as crucial as Rooney for this title defense. Berbatov showed signs of "hard" work against Chelsea - will he try to add that work rate to his game? I'm not too hopeful.
Chelsea look like the favorite contenders. No one's won it 4 times in a row and for good reason. Chelsea would want it more and Ancelotti's first season will ensure enough motivation. They always had better depth in the squad but with the departures at Old Trafford,their first eleven is now better on paper. I don't see Arsenal putting up a challenge as Wenger continues to pursue his myopic policy. With Alonso's exit, Liverpool are again going to miss out. City will struggle to avoid relegation - you heard it here, first!
Let the games begin.