The annoying thing is we were starting to see Lopetegui’s fingerprints on the team.
Pressing with purpose from the front, breaking at pace and finally – finally – getting some bodies into the box.
I stand to be proven wrong, but everything I’ve seen or read about Gary O’Neil suggests this isn’t simpatico to his more pragmatic way of getting things done.
That leaves the lads in a bit of a pickle just days out from one of the more difficult opening fixtures.
A sunnier way of looking at it might be that this was always going to be a tough assignment so there’s nothing to lose anyway.
Yeah, I think I’ll go with that.
The going has been better at Old Trafford over the summer. Erik ten Hag has been able to offload the players he doesn’t want and bring in others to suit his established system. That’s what you’re supposed to do.
It is easier for the moneybags clubs of course but with investment comes expectation and that will be sky-high after laying secure foundations last season.
On paper, improvement seems inevitable given that they’ve turfed out weak links and added depth in other areas they were lacking.
Such is the way football is going, the goalkeeper could end up being their most important attacking recruit. Andre Onana is useful with his feet and is being hyped up as an essential piece of the puzzle as Utd look to build more effectively from the back.
As much will be expected from striker Rasmus Højlund when he eventually gets up to speed. He’s not ready for Monday but even in a worst-case scenario, should eventually prove a solid upgrade on Wout Weghorst. No offence Wout.
Gut feeling? Some good moments in the season, but I think they’ll finish 4th.
Anyone up for some Gazball? I have zero idea what the head coach has in mind so instead I’ll just name the XI I think he should eventually be trying to get on the pitch from the players at his disposal.
I’m all in on Sasa Kalajdzik. I think he is exactly what we need. If he can stay fit (a big if) I have confidence he’ll create chaos, bring others into play and most importantly, score goals.
All of our attacking players will benefit from the presence of a target man. Neto, Nunes, Hwang, Sarabia, Cunha and Fabio will all produce better output with someone dragging defenders away, which is why I feel Sasa is pivotal.
Playing Doherty at left-back will probably raise a few eyebrows but I just think we need another senior pro in that back four and it means we can get his attacking capabilities into the side without losing Nelson’s running power.
The combinations with the midfielders ahead of them also work better. Pedro likes to get it wide, Doc can make good runs inside. Nelson likes to get down the wing and Nunes comes inside to join the play. These are combinations I don’t feel have been right in recent years.
Well, we’re gonna lose sorry. I wish I could find a way to predict anything but a regulation defeat but I just don’t see it. For all the good Lopetegui did at Molineux, the away performances during his brief tenure were largely garbage so there’s a good chance for O’Neil to make a solid gain over the season. This will surely be a bridge too far though.
What I hope we’ll get is some resistance, some backbone or, failing that, anything we can cling onto and take into another tough game against Brighton next weekend.
As for the score, I’m saying 3-1 Utd. Sasa to get our goal.
As always, if you’d like to join in with the Prediction League this season, it’s simple – just leave your prediction in the comment section below using the boxes provided. Then repeat for every preview article throughout the season, making sure you always use the same email address to make your prediction. Your email is what ties you to your overall score.