After a thoroughly unconvincing first season at Manchester United followed by a transfer window which began with promise but ended in a shambles of farcical proportions, Louis van Gaal has no room for excuses as he enters what will be the defining months of his Old Trafford tenure.
Louis van Gaal came to Manchester with a mixed reputation. As a manager, his CV speaks for itself, but the implementation of his 'philosophy' is legendary, and a strong, often overbearing personality has caused him problems at previous clubs before arriving at Old Trafford. £250m later, he's had 12 new signings and overseen the remnants of Ferguson's and Moyes' reigns dismantled, allowing more than 20 players to leave. There is no question that this is van Gaal's team; it's time to deliver.
Pre-season seemed to go smoothly, with the majority of transfer business done early enough to integrate Memphis Depay, Mateo Darmian, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin into the first-team squad. Difficult to understand though, has been the treatment of the goalkeepers at Old Trafford.
David de Gea's future has been hanging in the balance all summer, as an expected approach from Real Madrid came at lunchtime on deadline day; too late it turned out, leaving United with one of the world's finest keepers staying at the club against his will. Van Gaal will need to get the Spaniard back on side quickly; a player of his calibre is wasted sitting in the stands. Whilst the De Gea situation will remain an obvious element in the room, or indeed, the stands, it could have been eased had the keeper's compatriot, Victor Valdes, not also been frozen out of the first team at the start of the season.
The confusing treatment of his star Spanish goalkeepers is simply not benefiting of a club the size of Manchester United, and his reputation as a poor man-manager has been further highlighted by Angel Di Maria's eagerness to leave after a single disappointing season.
Much of how Van Gaal's season goes will depend on the form of striker and captain Wayne Rooney. With the England number nine looking way below his best, hat-trick against Brugge aside, it remains to be seen whether the Dutchman can build a fluid, attacking side to get the best out of Rooney.
There's certainly a lot of pressure instantly on the shoulders of French teenager Anthony Martial, who will be expected to chip in with goals and assists and adapt to Van Gaal's methods quickly after a big-money move from Monaco.
No-one is quite sure what Van Gaal's 'philosophy' entails, but it certainly looks as though he has gradually coached the flamboyant risk-taking out of a team so well known for verve under Sir Alex Ferguson. Whilst United have regularly dominated possession stats, they appear to struggle to create goalscoring opportunities, labouring under the burden of 'for-the-sake-of-it' ball retention. A sign of the manager's willingness to turn his side into a controlling, possession-based machine was the frankly bewildering decision to let Adnan Januzaj leave for a season-long loan to Borussia Dortmund. The young Belgian is undoubtedly one of the most gifted players in the Manchester United squad, yet his tendency to give the ball away attempting risky passes has ultimately been his undoing.
If the first few games of the season are anything to go by, Manchester United have an awfully long way to go before they can consider themselves genuine title contenders. Whilst they may have been spared by the poor starts of rivals Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool; Manchester City have leapt out of the blocks and already look in ominous form. The philosophy is in place, the money has been spent. For Louis van Gaal, it's time to deliver.