With their eyes set on a title challenge, Manchester United take on Tottenham in a significant opening day clash as a Premier League season kicks off at Old Trafford for the second successive year.
Louis van Gaal achieved his minimum requirement in his first year in charge of the Red Devils, returning them to the Champions League, but merely finishing in the top four this time around will go down as a failure for a club with such status, that has spent huge amounts of money in the previous two years with varying degrees of success.
More convincing performances to go with their results will be high on the agenda, while in the transfer market van Gaal has addressed areas where they were lacking in 2014-15. Former Bayern Munich stalwart Bastian Schweinsteiger and long-serving Southampton star Morgan Schneiderlin will add considerable strength to the midfield, with exciting Dutch youngster Memphis Depay ready to prove his obvious talent from the left wing.
Having played under van Gaal for the Netherlands and top scored as PSV Eindhoven won the Eredivisie title in May, Depay is an exciting addition to the English top-flight, and with United lacking in strikers, he could find himself supporting captain Wayne Rooney through the middle on occasion. Overall, the hosts look better equipped than they were last season, and should be much closer to the top providing that van Gaal can find the right balance to suit his squad.
Tottenham have been relative quiet this summer, but in Toby Alderweireld they have made a potentially vital signing as they look to eliminate the defensive frailties that have undermined their attempts to qualify for the Champions League in recent seasons. That said, fifth place and a cup final appearance ensured it was a very respectable first season for Mauricio Pochettino as boss of the North London club.
However, the club’s hierarchy will be demanding a top four spot this time, so the key is find a greater consistency, as for many of their good displays last season they produced several abject ones. This encounter will provide a good indication of where they are at and whether they can make the step up.
Like United, they are somewhat thin on the ground in attack, particularly as Emmanuel Adebayor and Roberto Soldado look likely to leave before the transfer deadline. West Bromwich Albion’s Saido Berahino remains a target, but as things stand Harry Kane appears to be Spurs’ only striking option.
Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini and Ander Herrera will be vying with the new boys for a place in the United midfield. Matteo Darmian will make his debut in defence. Van Gaal has opted to leave out in-demand goalkeeper David De Gea, so Argentina No. 1 Sergio Romero is likely to play.
Along with Alderweireld, Tottenham could field Kieran Trippier, Kevin Wimmer or DeAndre Yedlin, but goalkeeper Hugo Lloris is likely to miss out after suffering a broken arm.
Played for both – Teddy Sheringham: Capped 51 times by England, Sheringham spent the best years of his career at these two clubs, famously scoring vital goals in the FA Cup and Champions League finals to help United to an infamous treble in 1999. Two spells at White Hart Lane yielded 98 goals in 236 Premier League appearances.