If there is one crumb of comfort for Stretford End supporting England supporters in the wake of European Championship disappointment, it is that the new season with Manchester United is beginning to take shape.
This weekend will see the first of five scheduled friendly matches as United travel to face Derby County on Sunday lunchtime, it could prove to be the first step towards an historic season for the club.
Many fans won’t pay much attention to pre-season this summer after an overloading 12 months of football, though interest will peak once again prior to the Premier League opener against Leeds on August 14.
It is that match that could see a whole host of full debuts for the club with the imminent arrival of Jadon Sancho eagerly awaited and steady progress being made on the possible signing of Raphael Varane.
Even after a dream summer window, fans will still fiercely debate what their ‘Best XI’ is ahead of the new season, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s selection for a fierce derby encounter should shed light on those he knows he can trust.
The buzzword this summer is once again ‘rebuild’ around Old Trafford as the Norwegian looks to improve on his already steady foundations with notable acquisitions who can elevate them to the status of title challengers once again.
Though while much of the focus is rightfully on new additions, the most pivotal performances next season could come from a core of players whose performances are often taken for granted.
Four of those players were involved in major international finals over the weekend, all of them tasted defeat. Harry Maguire, Marcus Rashford and Luke Shaw experienced shootout defeat in a high-profile final for the second time in as many months, while Fred cut a frustrated figure as Brazil lost to Argentina in the Copa America showpiece.
Those four players were amongst the seven most used by Solskjaer throughout last season, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Bruno Fernandes and Victor Lindelof completing the selection. Even after a potential dream summer window it seems certain that quartet will be heavily involved across all competitions in the year ahead.
Throw into the equation the addition of fellow England international Jadon Sancho, who missed a spot-kick against Italy, and it is shaping up to be another summer in which Solskjaer’s human touch could prove critical.
United are blessed with a squad who are showing great maturity for their age, but after a slump of four years without a trophy and high-profile defeats in various cup competitions it will be a huge test of character if they are to finally lift silverware next season.
It is a credit to the man-management abilities of Solskjaer that the likes of Shaw and Fred were even starting for their countries this summer, both have been rejuvenated under his leadership and are playing the best football of their respective careers as a result.
Likewise there has been a steady improvement in club captain Maguire under his guidance, a player who is finally getting the global recognition he deserves for an often selfless role at the heart of the United defence.
The Norwegian manager is well aware of the huge mentality shift winning one trophy can have on a squad, but so to is he aware of the effects consecutive finals defeats can have on individuals too.
With such solid foundations in place, there is no reason why United’s gifted squad can’t finally shift their recent hoodoo with success next season, though in order to do so it will take expertise man-management from their jovial coach to lift them once again.
United are still on course with their gradual rebuild, but right now it is time to rest, reflect and refocus.