Before the 2014-15 Premier League season began, it had been inferred that Manchester United would surely produce a more creditable performance under manager Louis van Gaal than occurred when his predecessor David Moyes was boss at Old Trafford during the previous campaign. Moyes had been ridiculed as being out of his depth and unfit for purpose. One match into the new season and Manchester United have lost their opening game by a 2-1 scoreline to Swansea City and the stark reality of the limitations of the first team squad at Old Trafford are very much in evidence.
There had been much bravado talk about how Van Gaal was to be the saviour at Manchester Utd and with that a top four berth in the Premier League at the very least. What is apparent clear is that the rebuilding job started by Moyes is still very much work in progress although the return of Robin van Persie should help to strengthen the forward line.
Van Gaal has been described as the personality who will command respect at Old Trafford and perhaps many football pundits had pencilled in the fixture with Swansea as an automatic three points before the match had kicked off. Yet the Premier League can be unforgiven at times and Van Gaal could still galvanise a rejigged squad into a decent final position in the league. Should he not, will he also be described as out of his depth without being allotted the time bestowed on Sir Alex Ferguson to build a squad capable of dominating the Premier League.
Meanwhile along the road at the Etihad Stadium, Manuel Pellegrini is facing the task of retaining the Premier League for Manchester City after his successful efforts last season. A 3-0 defeat by Arsenal in the Community Shield during the previous weekend did not inspire confidence but several members of the first team squad were absent that day.
At the weekend they visited St James’ Park to visit a Newcastle team which had been the subject of much investment during the summer and was eager to face the reigning champions. With some players still to approach full match fitness, City still managed to conjure a 2-0 victory and their slick passing movements were testament to their position among the Premier League title favourites. David Silva in particular never wasted a ball and was the focal point of most of their attacking moves.
It was a case of business as usual at Manchester City with another season of title aspirations. This contrasts with their neighbours across the City who consider it a divine right to be challenging at the top of the league table but who are yet to rediscover that winning formula so apparent during the reign of Fergie. Van Gaal is now in the spotlight and under pressure to recreate those successful days.