Will Man Utd once again lift the Premiership crown? Can big spending Man City finally mount a serious challenge to the title? Can Kenny Daglish inspire Liverpool to glory?
We begin with a look at Manchester United.
There is no doubt that Alex Ferguson’s Man Utd just about deserved the title last year, and once again they will be the team to beat, however there are some signs that this is a side in transition. The defeat to Barcelona in last season’s Champions League Final will put no doubt in Alex Ferguson’s mind that his side still require plenty of quality and investment to be able to compete at the highest levels in Europe. Key players and inspirational members of the side Paul Scholes, Gary Neville and Edwin Van Der Sar have all retired.
There is no doubt that this summer has been one of the busiest in the transfer market at Old Trafford, and it is clear that Alex Ferguson has definite rebuilding and restructuring of his side to address.
The deadwood has been shifted, with John O’Shea and Wes Brown shipped off to Sunderland, while Ferguson has spent wisely, bringing in Spain Under-21 and Atletico Madrid goalkeeper David de Gea and bolstering his defence with the arrival of 19-year-old defender Phil Jones from Blackburn. While Jones and de Gea will be rough diamonds awaiting the Ferguson polish, experienced England interntional wingman Ashley Young has been brought in on a five year deal from Aston Villa.
Together with Nani in midfield they look the perfect foil for Wayne Rooney, and we have already seen exciting glimpses of what we can expect during Man Utd’s tour of the US. Javier Hernandez was a revelation last season, firing in 20 goals in 45 games, while of course the forgotton man Dimitar Berbatov is waiting in the wings, the Bulgarian once again firing in over 20 goals.
Of course, the famous Manchester United youth academy is still churning out a group of talented youngsters, in particular 21 year old midfielder Tom Cleverley, who is sure to break into the Utd starting XI this year after impressing during his loan spell at Wigan. Much is expected of Chris Smalling (21) who joined the club from Fulham last year and Jonny Evans. Both featured in the title winning side and Alex Ferguson can also count on the scoring ability of 20 year old Danny Welbeck, who fired six goals during his loan spell with Sunderland last season.
Defensively, however, Utd could struggle. Rio Ferdinand has lost a yard of pace, and seems to be perpetually struggling with injury, managing only 19 League appearances last term. A rock at the back has also been removed with the retirement of Edwin Van Der Sar, and with two young keepers in Anders Lindegaard and David de Gea competing for the number one spot the Red Devils may not have an aura of invincibility at the back.
Paddy Power offer free bets of 9/5 for Utd to lift the Premiership crown and even though they will be there or thereabouts at the end of the season, for once Alex Ferguson’s men may not be everyone’s favorites for the title.