By Wilfrid Shefveland for the BBC News website
Bruno Fernandes spent less than one season at Old Trafford
Rarely has the arrival of a player’s picture adorned Manchester United’s kit shop like when it was gifted to Rio Ferdinand by the Portuguese defender, who was then a 22-year-old still learning the tricks of the trade at Old Trafford.
It is worth pointing out that the old club shop offered pictures not only for sale, but in a fantastic range of sizes, shapes and finishing that included – for the first time in club history – player autographs.
Rio Ferdinand had, by this time, joined Leeds United, while Edwin van der Sar was being recommended to United by coach Eric Harrison as his successor at Ajax. At the tender age of 19-20, van der Sar had already appeared in a few United games.
Such were the changes to Manchester United’s spine when Louis van Gaal took over as manager in the middle of last season that Fernandes was a regular again, having returned to playing alongside Nemanja Vidic and then Chris Smalling to earn an England recall.
Instead of a keenly contested fight for the title and a Champions League place, United were cast adrift and the FA Cup semi-final loss to Chelsea was followed by a humiliating slump in domestic form.
But Rio Ferdinand’s photograph was not the only link with the club’s first two titles under Alex Ferguson. And while some team-mates hold up “Teekelazo” as a precursor to the big sides of this season, it is hardly the brand of play at Old Trafford under Van Gaal that will be on offer at Wembley.
Instead the champions will play against a team steered by a man who is well equipped to blend the old and the new.
Former Manchester United defender Brian McBride’s arrival from Fulham meant Cristiano Ronaldo started his United career alongside an international level player in Nani.
The United States will not replicate Liverpool and England’s experience of playing in the World Cup, which has seen half of their squad sent home without even playing a game, but Mexico will at least have the benefit of a decent enough backline including Guillermo Ochoa, Jesus Corona and Humberto Suazo.
While Nike have provided the shirt and players a very good kit from the start, they would not expect a team who have gone through this season’s Europa League with not a win to compete with the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City for the Premier League crown.
City won 2-1 at Old Trafford – both goals from new signing John Stones – in April
Their last league game in Europe? It is enough to make Old Trafford shudder. The first goal in City’s 2-1 win in April was not scored by a City player but by club stalwart Vincent Kompany, who earned his 38th cap in that fixture.
A level of achievement not seen in 14 years, and a statement statement with the best players back from international duty after this summer’s World Cup.
City have already qualified for the Champions League and will hope to clinch that prize at Wembley, but if Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea beat them then one wonders just how much they will fear the prospect of lifting the league trophy they have never won.