The moment that football fans around the world have been waiting for all summer has arrived.
After pretending to love the Ashes and Wimbledon we can all stop the charade that any of these events can compare to the greatest show on earth.
High octane football, new managers galore, stellar signings, a sulky scouser and loony transfer bids are only a few of the various subplots that will permeate this weekend’s matches.
However, away from the sexy headlines there are a group of players at every club whose futures hang in the balance.
As a result, MM takes a look at the desperate stars that need to impress their new managers at the City’s top clubs.
While rumours of Lescott exiting the Etihad have been circulating throughout the summer months no movement has occurred.
This could be due to the fact that Matija Nastasic picked up an injury that will sideline him for the first six weeks of the Premier League season.
Nastasic’s woe could be the source of Lescott’s joy as a spot in central defence has teasingly appeared.
Lescott now has an opportunity to prove his worth to Manuel Pellegrini. The Chilean might not be happy about playing Lescott but he might have no choice.
If this is the case then Lescott must recapture his finest form and help City to maintain their formidable defensive record.
Should he do this there is a good chance he will be collecting a Premier League medal at the end of the season.
Like Lescott rumours of Dzeko’s imminent departure were lurking during the early summer months.
However, Pellegrini’s arrival has marked the beginning of a new era of rhetoric concerning the player.
Where last season Dzeko was used predominantly as a substitute it seems that Pellegrini has more faith in the Bosnian’s ability to lead Man City’s attacking line.
With competition from Aguero, Negredo, and Jovetic for a starting position up-front, the striker must make sure that any faith placed in him by Pellegrini is repaid in goals…and lots of them.
With Yaya Toure a certain starter for City and, with the arrival of Fernandinho for £30million, the prospect of seeing Javi Garcia in City’s starting line-up is bleak.
Garcia appears to be a player with a lot of talent however, an underwhelming first season at the Blues has severely hampered his chances of nailing down a regular starting position.
It is likely that he will be used sparingly by Pellegrini and, with Garcia’s prospects of making Spain’s squad for next summer’s World Cup already paper thin, he must provide blistering performances from the bench to stand any chance of being on a plane to Brazil next year.
At 28 years of age and with a mammoth price tag around his neck , time is one thing that Fernandinho does not have.
His performances will be immediately judged and he will be afforded little leeway should he fail to instantly adapt to life in the Premier League.
Having only played in the Brazilian and Ukrainian leagues the midfielder has to make an incredible step-up in standard and slot straight into City’s ambitious squad.
Underwhelming performances can be forgiven when a player is still developing; however, Fernandinho was bought as the finished article and if he does not inject City with first class football then the fans and press will be unforgiving.
The Portuguese winger has consistently threatened to become a star player. A spectacular highlight reel and match-winning performances would make most players a fan-favourite.
However, consistency is the key in football and Nani has very little of that.
It was widely believed that the club had run out of patience with a player that promised so much.
Despite receiving interest in Nani over the summer, United have opted to give the winger a final chance to impress.
With a new manager and, with several years of first team experience under his belt, it is make or break time for Nani who must produce consistent performances for the Reds.
Anderson signed at the same time as Nani and suffers from exactly the same problem: consistency.
In some matches Anderson has been a catalyst for success, providing drive in a midfield that looked stagnant.
However, injury and fitness problems have meant that the Brazilian has spent large portions of his Old Trafford career on the sidelines.
United’s reported deficiencies in the midfield area may mean that Anderson gets a chance to shine this season.
However, it is well known that Moyes is on the hunt for midfield talent which means that Anderson must get fit, stay fit, and cultivate a series of consistent performances.
Patrice Evra can genuinely be considered as one of the finest left-backs ever to put on the United shirt.
Over the course of his United career he has produced spectacular performances that have helped the Reds win numerous titles.
Despite this claim Evra’s performances two seasons ago were well below the high standards he had set for himself.
He reclaimed some of his better form last season but this was not enough to convince David Moyes that Evra was the man for this season’s left-back job.
Moyes lodged an official bid for Leighton Baines earlier in the summer and it has been suggested that a second bid could be imminent.
If this is the case then Evra’s time as a regular starter could be limited and he must use any time he does have to show that he has not past his peak.
Rooney is a magnificent player who could play in any team in the world. However, after asking to leave the club for a second time this summer, he must produce breath-taking performances if he is going to win over the Old Trafford faithful.
The general consensus among United fans seems to be ‘sod him’; any player that doesn’t want to be at the club can leave.
United seem to be standing firm with the message that Rooney will not be sold at any price.
If that is the case then Rooney has a torrid time ahead of him as he turns out for United in front of a hostile home crowd.
Performances of the highest calibre are the only chance ‘Wazza’ has to get the fans to love him again: anything less than the best will not be accepted by United’s hard-core fans.
Image courtesy of Gordon Flood, with thanks.