I was going to open with a pleasantry about the summer holidays and the successful Asian tour. Instead, I'll take my cue from the manager who cut to the chase as soon as you were cleared for landing in Manchester by issuing his Carrington edict—40 goals from midfield next season.
Strewth, for you Ji Sung, Fergie may as well have asked you to come up with the winning lottery numbers too. You've got another reason for counting sheep at night now, what with the ongoing contract negotiations in your last year.
I have to admit that I'm a little surprised that you are still at United and astonished that you are likely to have an enhanced role this season in what looks like a return to 4-4-2. The world saw again in Rome that you aren't really United class but then your more reputable colleagues hardly covered themselves in glory either, so you earned a reprieve.
Those of us who were expecting a strengthening of personnel in the midfield department have been somewhat disappointed. But in Sir Alex we trust and he seems to trust you, so we must too.
But back to the goals. Short of paying someone to score them for you, how on earth are you going to bag 10 goals next term? Your forté is energy and zest with little end product. I know that might sound harsh, as you've scored crucial goals against the likes of Fulham, Chelsea, and Arsenal in the past but "see the goal, stick it in," is not written into your DNA now is it.
But Ji Sung is not alone in that regard is he Darren? You've silenced your critics with some useful shifts throughout the last campaign, but a Lampard or Gerrard you are not. Most of us hope that you can morph into a Hargreaves or a Dunga and become the kind of destroyer that United sorely need. If so, you'll be spared the responsibility of chipping in more than a handful of goals.
But Anderson, you won't be indulged any longer. This is an important season for you. Everyone can see your ability but questions still remain about whether you are too relaxed to progress as fast as is possible. At least the scoring monkey is off your back now. The free-kick against Boca Juniors was a beauty. Let's see more Brazilian cunning in competitive games.
Reading between the lines, I understand that the manager is looking to play four across the midfield, so that means one plus you Michael. Darren will get the nod in the bigger matches when fit, as befits the manager's love-child after all but Anderson should also get a few run-outs too.
How do you feel about that Mike? Are you sanguine about lining up alongside the young Brazilian or is he just too careless and in-disciplined at this stage of his career to share the important responsibilities of the engine room for 90 minutes? Anderson's errant attention is covered somewhat in trio but he could leave you exposed when it's just the two of you in the centre.
And let's face it, you are already confused enough as to your role. Are you United's defensive screen or the schemer who launches the Red machine from deep with pinpoint passes? The manager seems to change your role according to circumstance but personally, I'd like to see you liberated from your defensive duties. For a start, you are too slow. But more importantly, you can pass long and short.
With Berbatov's excellent positional play and the speed of Rooney up front, I hope you might be given the opportunity to develop this part of your game. The pass to Dimi for his goal against Spurs in the FA Cup last term was, to these eyes, the Red pass of the season.
For a decade, that award used to be reserved for you Paul but I wonder if the rumours are true and that you'll be bowing out at the end of this campaign. You've been briliant for United and my favourite player ever since you became a mainstay in the side. Some say you've just got no personality or charisma but I quite like your unwillingness to recount empty homilies in front of the camera and the personal distaste for advertising. You must have lost hundreds of thousands of pounds as a result because you were a top, top player for years and years. Respect!
Alas, your footballing currency has been declining in value for two years now. The manager said he'd use you less last season and he was true to his word because you just couldn't influence games like you used too. Your tackling has always been woeful but now you don't have the legs to get into attacking positions regularly enough, nor the running power to consistently stifle your opponents. Your goals output has suffered accordingly.
United will be weaker until you have been effectively replaced because no one on the staff currently has your gift for stealing into goal-threatening positions. Equally, there is no midfielder who carries thunder in his boots like you do.
United just won't feel like United without you either, Ryan. You scooped the Players Award last term thanks to the sentimental vote but your appearances showed that the sun is setting on your illustrious career. Fergie deploys you in central midfield these days and was delighted by your performance against Chelsea in the league home match and the marvellous goal you conjured against West Ham away. But when he really needed you to shine in Rome, well, enough said.
Still, fans have been writing you off for four years now at least and each year you come back to claim another gong. Long may it continue.
Quite how long you'll be continuing Nani is anyone's guess. The manager is talking you up, telling the press of the expectations he has for your third year. If it's the same as your second year, well, I'd keep a suitcase packed.
Frankly, no tears would have been shed if you had been traded back to Sporting and United had come away with Moutinho but it appears that the deal is dead. You should be happy. Now return the favour by delivering the goods throughout the season. After all, you did say that Ronaldo's departure was good for you. We'll see!
Your worth to United, Owen, is the subject of fierce debate right now. You've replaced Louis as United's crock in situ and it appears that your comeback has been delayed until December, at the earliest. You were hardly robust before joining the club from Bayern. Forgive me for saying this but the manager has few reasons for counting on you.
At your best, you are a definte plus but fate has been unkind to you and the club and sadly, there's no reason to believe that matters will improve as you get older.
I hope that better luck awaits you Antonio. No one is saying that you are the new Cristiano but his ghost will be dancing along the wing every time you play. You'll be delighted if you register 30 league games this season and i'm sure you'll be hoping to improve on your meagre goal tally at Wigan. Goodness, one winger at United who can't score is quite enough!
Every honour is due to you Darron. I thought you were destined for the knacker's yard. United let your deal run down to zero and it looked like you'd be running out for Wolverhampton or Birmingham next year.
Something obviously changed in the close-season. Perhaps, it was the neat goal you scored against Hull on the last day of the campaign? Maybe, the coaching staff realised that you are the kind of unsung steady-Eddie that every side needs—another Michael Carrick, if you will.
Whatever, you are still at Old Trafford on a new four-year deal, living the dream with all the luck of the Irish.