OLD TRAFFORD, MANCHESTER — The fans turned up to watch Manchester United's final game of pre-season hoping to get a glimpse of a new era.
They left having seen that it looks very similar to the old one.
Louis van Gaal's arrival has brought with it a wave of optimism. But there was evidence against Valencia of why it won't be easy for the Dutchman next season.
United have improved the personnel in the dugout, replacing David Moyes with a former coach of Ajax, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and the Netherlands.
But less than three weeks before the transfer window shuts, the squad doesn't look any stronger than it did last season.
Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw have come in. But Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra and Ryan Giggs have left.
The group looks inexperienced and without enough depth.
Robin van Persie, Jonny Evans, Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw were missing against the side that finished eighth in La Liga last season.
All four will expect to be first choices during the coming campaign.
Without them, Van Gaal was forced to turn to the inexperienced Tyler Blackett and Reece James.
They are promising youngsters. But it's debatable whether they're ready to be key members of the first-team squad or not.
If Evans, Shaw and Valencia don't recover from injury in time, Blackett and James could make their competitive debuts against Swansea City on Saturday.
It's proof of how thin United's squad is on the eve of the new Premier League season.
United, and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, have 19 days to put it right.
A similar situation unfolded last summer. It wasn't until deadline day that they made a signing. And even that ended in disaster—although Marouane Fellaini did at least impress in his late cameo against Valencia.
It was no coincidence that after a failed summer came a failed season. And the final days of this transfer window are just as important.
If United can sign two new players before September 1—preferably a centre-half and a central midfielder—things will look a lot better.
But without any more new arrivals, next season could be a struggle.
United's squad shouldn't be judged until the end of the window. A lot can change in three weeks during the summer.
But Van Gaal's team against Valencia—albeit a game they won—was evidence that something will have to change in the coming days.
The promised new era hasn't arrived just yet.