Manchester United had a trophyless season last time out under Jose Mourinho, and the club finished 2nd by a distance of 19 points behind their City rivals. They also lost in the FA Cup final against Chelsea, and bowed out to Sevilla in the Champions League knockout round.
United by no means had a bad season, but left much to be desired, and the difference in quality when compared to Manchester City was there for all to see. The club with a massive fan base has a lot of work to do if they are to catch up with the top clubs in Europe this season.
While the pre-season does indeed do little to predict the performance going into the new season, it is certainly useful to pick up certain trends and hint at the readiness of a few players.
United have had an underwhelming pre-season to put it mildly, winning only once in the 6 games played and losing twice (including a 4-1 hammering by league rivals Liverpool).
While this may be a cause for concern at the club, the fact is Mourinho for the much of the tour utilized a young squad of players. United have also been without certain important players who are on an enforced break after their World Cup campaigns.
This brings us to the first thing we've learned from United's pre-season:
#1 United miss their best players
Coming off a major international tournament is never easy on a big club, especially those with a strong representation in these tournaments. Man United have been without the services of their record signing and World Cup winner Paul Pogba who is currently also being linked to a move away from the club.
Pogba is yet to return to training after his break and might take a couple of weeks to get back into the first team if he does actually stay. Another crucial midfield man for United is Matic who is currently out injured and is slated to return late in August.
The club's top scorer last season - Romelu Lukaku is also yet to return to first team training and the club lacks another physical center forward in his absence. Rashford who has just returned to the team may fill in for him until he gets back, but goals look to be a problem until he does.
Along with them are squad players Jesse Lingard and Ashley Young who haven't featured in the pre-season at all. These positions do have alternatives though, with Herrera and Luke Shaw more than capable of filling in. A swift return however would give United some much needed squad depth.
Until Man United get back to full strength, fans might have to endure a tough opening couple of weeks.