A strange old season in which nobody really convinced throughout, eventually saw Manchester United display the requisite consistency to capture their 19th top flight crown and with Sir Alex Ferguson still showing no signs of stepping down, the Red Devils head the betting at 9/5 with Paddy Power ahead of the forthcoming campaign.
The retirement of Paul Scholes and Edwin Van der Sar, the acknowledgement that perhaps some members of his squad don’t have the quality to carry the club to Champions League glory and indeed the team reinforcing carried out by some of their domestic foes have prompted Fergie to make several forays into the transfer market this summer.
The Old Trafford chequebook had to be utilised then and could be again before the big kick-off, but it nevertheless looks like United have been strengthening shrewdly and ominously for everyone else, they should be even better than last season meaning that their rivals will have to perform well to prevent them clinching a 20th title.
The key for the champions could be in attack where Wayne Rooney looks to have put his problems with form behind him and Javier Hernandez should improve yet further and this pair are ably backed up by Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen. All four meanwhile, can benefit from the top-notch service supplied by United new-boy Ashley Young.
Securing second place wasn’t deemed good enough to keep Carlo Ancelotti in employment at Stamford Bridge but while most people assumed Guus Hiddink would take the reins at Chelsea following the Italian’s departure, Roman Abramovich threw something of a curveball, appointing 33-year-old Porto boss Andre Villa-Boas.
Clearly pinning their hopes on the charismatic young manager being something of a Mourinho-style figure, the Blues have taken a bit of a risk despite Villa-Boas’ tremendous record in Portugal and on that basis, punters would also be taking a chance by backing the Blues in the championship market at 11/4 with before a ball has been kicked.
Manchester City are next at 4/1 courtesy of Betfred and that’s perhaps a touch high given the financial muscle of Roberto Mancini’s men and the overlooked fact that City finished level on points with Chelsea last season. Their expensively assembled squad will probably be shorn of the services of want-away striker Carlos Tevez but Sergio Aguero has moved to Eastlands and if he hits the ground running then City could manage more of a challenge than their odds suggest.
For Arsenal meanwhile, the summer has brought necessary change but bookies are as yet unsure how Arsene Wenger’s charges will react. However, a title tilt is considered unlikely by Stan James, who rate the Gunners at 9/1 and despite their spending, Liverpool aren’t expected to be in the hunt, this season at least, they’re 11/1 at Sportingbet.
The top three looks set to remain the same then, with United primed to lead them home and Chelsea likely to scrap with City for second.
Manchester United to win the title – 9/5 (Paddy Power)