For English football, it has long seemed unthinkable: a league season starting without the finger-jabbing, combative colossus of management on the touchlines.
Alex Ferguson will be a bystander for the first time since 1986, watching from afar as Manchester United starts its pursuit of a record-extending 21st English title.
David Moyes now carries that responsibility.
Widely admired during 11 years at Everton despite failing to collect a major honour, Moyes was hand-picked by Ferguson in the biggest decision - gamble, perhaps - taken by the owning Glazer family.
"People are asking whether we can win the trophy again. Can we still be champions?" captain Nemanja Vidic acknowledged.
Although he openly flirted with United in the months before Ferguson's retirement was publicly disclosed, Jose Mourinho - one of the most talented but temperamental managers of his generation - wasn't approached for the job.
The charismatic Portuguese is back in the Premier League, though, after six years collecting trophies with Inter Milan and Real Madrid.
Claiming to have mellowed since leaving Chelsea after a fall-out, Mourinho is widely expected to return to his combustible self once the season begins and produce the touchline tantrums Ferguson can no longer provide.
Just a week into the season, the 50-year-old managers will get a chance to size each other up in a match that could set the tone for the opening weeks, with United hosting Chelsea.
MATTER OF CONFIDENCE
"That game will not decide who is going to be champions," Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic said. "But it will decide a lot of things about the confidence."
By then, the Blues may have gained an edge by having played an extra game. United will only have played once - their title defence begins tomorrow at Swansea, following last weekend's 2-0 win over Wigan in the Community Shield.
Ill feeling between the sides has been inflamed by Chelsea's hostile pursuit of United striker Wayne Rooney.
Mourinho insists he's not engaging in "mind games" with Moyes, but has still offered a few pointed words of advice.
"One of the most difficult things in the club is to create a victory culture where you walk through the door and you smell the success, you smell confidence, you smell self-esteem," said Mourinho, who has won league titles in England, Spain, Italy and Portugal. "David is in a big club and that is a big help - everybody knows how to win. Of course, it is up to him now."
And he knows just how daunting the task is.
"There has to be an element of fear that comes with managing a club like Manchester United," Moyes said.
With the spotlight on Mourinho and Moyes, Manuel Pellegrini has been able to make a quiet start to his first job in English management.
The 59-year-old Chilean left Malaga for Manchester City after Roberto Mancini was fired for failing to follow up the 2011-12 Premier League title with a single trophy last season, finishing 11 points behind United in second.
Talk of dressing room disharmony has melted away as Pellegrini started to reshape the squad, spending more than US$130 million on strikers Stevan Jovetic and Alvaro Negredo, midfielder Fernandinho, and winger Jesús Navas.
Such a lavish outlay was easily affordable for the oil-rich Abu Dhabi ownership, but the spending could pose a challenge in complying with UEFA Financial Fair Play regulations, a requirement of playing in the Champions League.
The Special One, Jose Mourinho, is back at Chelsea.