Opening night at Old Trafford: Nothing can match the excitement
Manchester United's 2023/24 campaign kicks off this evening with an eagerly awaited Premier League fixture against Wolverhampton Wanderers.
As fans clamber up the Old Trafford steps and take their seats alongside fellow match-goers, a mix of excitement and nervousness will fill the Theatre of Dreams.
First-time attendees will be taken aback by the spectacle that greets them, and seasoned regulars will watch with intrigue as Erik ten Hag's side take to the field for the very first time in his second term.
Ahead of what is sure to be a buzzing night in M16, five of our writers have expressed what they are looking forward to most from our floodlit season opener...
Anticipation is building ahead of United's clash with Wolves at Old Trafford this evening. It is an opportunity for the Reds to lay down a marker to the rest of the league, but it also represents a chance for Erik ten Hag's side to display a fresh style of play, with Andre Onana between the sticks.
There have been countless occasions in the past when a goalkeeping acquisition has transformed the entire team, in the way attacks build up from the back and the pressure it relieves by having a keeper such as Andre, whose footwork is superb. I am extremely intrigued and excited by our new no.24 - and the impact he will have on the team from back to front.
I expect Lisandro Martinez to affect the game more as well, thanks to Onana's presence, with the goalkeeper able to maintain possession and bring his defenders into play. Don't be surprised if you see Licha's raking passes more prominently against Wolves this evening, as we look to open up our opponents, under the Old Trafford lights. I for one cannot wait!
It's absolutely tipping it down here at Old Trafford today, but I couldn't care less. Tonight, the Reds are back, and I'm just hours away from standing on the Stretford End, big coat zipped firmly up, ready to watch Bruno Fernandes lead the lads out onto the hallowed turf. Nothing can match the excitement of what's about to come: all those hopes and fears for the season ahead, bubbling just under the surface; all the old familiar matchday faces around you, smiling from ear to ear, ready for another rollercoaster ride.
The first game of the season is like no other. Everything seems possible, your dreams remain perfect and unspoiled, and you're back with the Red Army in your second home. Unbeatable. It could all go to pot (don't mention that Brighton game 12 months ago), but let's leave that for tomorrow and the weeks and months beyond. We only get one chance to cradle this brilliant, butterfly-inducing first-day buzz. So enjoy it, Reds, and, more importantly, come on United...
The last time I watched Mason Mount in a season opener at Old Trafford, back in 2019, he was making his Chelsea debut. He left M16 that day having experienced a 4-0 drubbing, as the Reds got that campaign off to a flyer.
Among all the many fascinating plotlines that a new season brings, I’m really interested to see what Mount can bring to the Reds’ engine room. Having arrived good and early in the pre-season build-up, he’s had a chance to bed in, get to know his team-mates, and properly understand what Erik ten Hag wants from him. And if he lines up alongside Casemiro, it will be fascinating to see how those two complement each other.
We’ve enjoyed glimpses in pre-season, but tonight the real stuff begins. Hopefully it’s the start of a special United career.
As an impatient person living in an increasingly impatient world, I’m unreasonably desperate for answers about Ten Hag’s second season. I’m convinced we’ll improve on his debut campaign – I think we all are, right? – but it’s the scale of progression that fascinates me.
Are we looking at a respectable second-placed finish, a first title challenge in years or, if you allow me to dream, perhaps even the championship crown? Who knows. And we won’t know this evening. But I’m still looking for a statement of intent. A sign that Erik’s Reds are bigger and better than before.
I know it’s a marathon and not a sprint, and last August proved that a team’s start does not define the season. But I also don’t care. Matchday one isn’t about rational thinking. It’s about blind ambition, hope and romance. Dreaming big and speculating wildly about the campaign to come. And we’re Manchester United. We’ve seen it all, we’ve won the lot. And we’re never going to stop.
'My style as captain? I will be Bruno!'
Bruno Fernandes is ready for his first competitive match as club captain, but the armband will not affect his play...
Although we saw him wearing the armband quite often last season, I'm intrigued to see Bruno Fernandes's first competitive game since he was appointed permanent club captain, when the action unfolds this evening.
Already a vociferous heartbeat of the team, the Portuguese magnifico now has the official mandate from Erik ten Hag to lead on the field. And you can bet he will be hell bent on making a winning start as skipper, against the same opposition he faced on his United debut in February 2020.
Wolves, beware. After watching Manchester City and Arsenal open their campaigns with victories on Friday and Saturday, our new skipper will have been champing at the bit to get out there tonight. The fact there are still a few fellow countrymen in the visitors' squad may add some extra spice for Bruno but whoever lines up for the oppo tonight will find the same Fernandes - bursting with pride as he leads the team out of the tunnel and firing on all cylinders when the first whistle blows. Bring on captain Bruno.
The opinions expressed in this article are personal to the authors and may not necessarily reflect the views of Manchester United FC.