Manchester United were expected to act a central defender to the squad. Mats Hummels was mentioned, then Sergio Ramos, and always Nicolas Otamendi. None of them have arrived, and now John Stones is the next potential arrival. As good as he is, United need a leader, one who's been in a war and come out stronger for it. Instead, they will start the season with Chris Smalling and Daley Blind keeping things tidy/terrifying.
A once excellent and effective winger, he has become a dull, blunted right-back, able to stand in the right position, but not use his brain or his left foot. He was only better than Rafael because of Rafael's recidivism. It was essential that there was an upgrade in the summer, to allow the right wing to offer far more danger - and with Pedro's likely arrival, that will not be limited just by replacing Valencia.
That's because Darmian has arrived. He was linked with a move to Bayern Munich, so we can guess that he isn't totally rubbish, and in friendlies he's linked up well with Mata. In defence, he seems the equal of Valencia, at least, and his international experience will help to prepare him for some of the wider challenges he will face in European competition this year. Able to play on the left, and in the middle if essential, it should mean the end of the Not Good pair of Paddy McNair and Tyler Blackett.
Along with Adnan Januzaj, Shaw took a personal trainer on his summer jaunt to improve his fitness and shift some poundage. It has, apparently, worked. His performances with Ashley Young on the left wing last season hinted at an attacking threat, just as his games for Southampton had before then. With Memphis Depay and Morgan Schneiderlin able to offer more than Young and Marouane Fellaini, expect an improved contribution from Shaw this season, providing he is now capable of staying fit.
If United don't get hold of another central defender in the transfer window, you can expect him to replace Daley Blind, sooner rather than later, as the left-sided central defender. He didn't have a disastrous season for United, but showed himself a risk at left-back. Younger than Smalling, and yet given far less slack by observers, he is the best central defender United have. He has room and time to improve, but yet again, it's a question of fitness and application.
He started appallingly, but ever since he was sent off in the defeat to Manchester City, he slowly but clearly improved. His positioning is far better than it has previously been, as has his resilience, and he rightly surpassed Phil Jones as first choice as the right-sided central defence. He's still not very good, obviously, and better defenders are needed than him to win things this season.
An old joke.