It's back! But who'll be key for the top-flight campaign to come? Kain Watson picks out the players sure to make their presences known...
New Manchester United chief Louis van Gaal has revealed that he intends to play a 3-5-2 formation to get the best out of his top players this season. When Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie are played in their favoured positions, goals will flow. At the other end of the pitch, however, the Red Devils could find themselves vulnerable.
The hardly unexpected departures of Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra have left the club with no recognised leader at the back; ranking highest in terms of both age and experience, 26-year-old Evans will be charged with stepping up to marshal a young defence having to come to terms with an unfamiliar system – especially with Van Gaal as yet unable to add to his defensive ranks.
Of United's three current options to start at centre-back – Evans, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling – the Northern Irishman is most familiar with the position, with Jones and Smalling often given the mixed blessing of being utility men. Long earmarked for success by Sir Alex Ferguson, Evans made the most clearances and blocked shots of the trio last season. Even if a new man comes in, Evans' ability to orchestrate this new defence could make or break Manchester United’s season in which an improvement on last year is paramount.