We all know that football is a squad game, but even in the deepest of squads there are players who stand out above the rest.
Manchester United have more than boosted their depth in a bumper summer transfer window that has seen new boss Jose Mourinho breaking the bank to bring back Paul Pogba, while also adding Zlatan Ibrahimovic on a free and Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Eric Bailly on free transfers.
But who will make or break United’s fortunes this season?
We have a look at the five key players, old or new, that will play the largest role in defining United’s success this season.
DAVID DE GEA
Where else can you start but between the sticks?
It goes without saying that you need a good goalkeeper if you want to have a good season, and David De Gea is arguably the best money can buy.
United dodged a bullet last season when Real Madrid failed to get their paperwork done in time to acquire the Spain international and he will be key to Mourinho’s hopes of Premier League glory once again this season.
He started the season well with a solid performance against Bournemouth, despite being denied a clean sheet in a 3-1 win, and will look to continue in a similar vein..
By the looks of things, it’s not just United who need him to play well, either!
— UtdHQ (@UtdHQ) August 13, 2016
Chris Smalling has been one of United’s big improvers in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era and he is undoubtedly a key cog in the United defence.
We have not seen much of him under Mourinho yet and he will face fresh competition from Bailly who has impressed since arriving from Villarreal, but Smalling’s experience and quality should ensure he plays whenever available.
The England international missed the season opener against Bournemouth through suspension but should reprise his role in the heart of defence for the remainder of the season and if he can continue his form under Louis van Gaal from last season, he will help United win more games than they lose.
— Red Related (@RedRelated) August 10, 2016
The world’s most expensive player will surely have the most important role to play in United’s midfield.
Unfortunately, the prolonged nature of Pogba’s transfer to United and a suspension carried over from his time at Juventus means we still have not seen the Frenchman play under Mourinho, so how exactly the boss plans to use his new man remains to be seen.
But whatever role he plays, be it as a more advanced midfielder or a more-rounded box-to-box player, Pogba will never be too far from the action.
If he can be as effective as he was at Juventus, where he won four Serie A titles, then he will be the midfielder United has desperately needed since the retirement of Paul Scholes.
It took a long time and a lot of money to right the wrong of letting Pogba slip through the cracks as a prodigiously talented teen, but now he can finally claim the role of Old Trafford’s midfield master he was born to play.
— The United Stand (@UnitedStandMUFC) August 13, 2016
When Anthony Martial arrived at Old Trafford, he did so under the weight of a hefty price tag many thought was far too much for a player who achieved so little.
For the money paid, some might say 11 goals is still not exactly value, but it is hard not to be excited about the potential of the goal-savvy, lightning quick Frenchman.
Martial looks set to spend the majority of the season cutting in from the left-hand side and if he can hit his marks, he will play a big role in defining United’s success this season.
The arrival of compatriot Pogba and Ibrahimovic further ahead of him takes some of the spotlight and pressure off Martial, which hopefully helps him to continue his improvement and make a real mark on United this season.
Anthony Martial's game by numbers vs. Bournemouth:
87% pass accuracy
2 tackles won
1 take-on pic.twitter.com/gBmdKcoeKy
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 14, 2016
Even at 34 (soon to be 35) Ibrahimovic is a player who will win United football matches on his own.
He scored in his non-competitive debut, his competitive debut and his Premier League debut for United already and that only serves to underline the important role Ibrahimovic will play for Mourinho this season.
Ibrahimovic is still coming to grips with United as a club, English football and his new team-mates and that lack of fluency has been obvious in his opening displays but the fact that he is already scoring goals despite that is a measure of this guy’s class.
A genuine 25-plus-goals-a-season striker, Ibrahimovic will undoubtedly be crucial to United’s hopes of Premier League glory this season.
— Manchester United (@MUFCScoop) August 14, 2016
THOSE THAT MISS OUT
It says a lot for the squad Mourinho has assembled that the likes of Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick no longer make this list.
The boss has bought in world-class talent and lessened the importance of United’s former leading lights – but has also ensured the squad is not too big that they do not still have a role to play.
Rooney may just revel in the fact he no longer carries the weight of the club on his shoulders, while Carrick remains a serviceable option in midfield but neither are the men to carry United forward on their own.
Meanwhile, the players coming in also lessen the stress on a number of youngsters coming through the ranks.
Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard and Tim Fosu-Mensah will all still have a part to play this season, but their development will not be curbed by United requiring too much of them too soon and all the expectation that comes with being a nailed on starter at the club.