LONDON: AP soccer writers Jack Bezants and Samuel Petrequin discuss the five things you need to know about the perennial English Premier League contenders Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea and Liverpool.
David Moyes landed the dream job in English football when he was appointed as the new Manchester United manager at the end of last season.
He is now facing the daunting task of proving he is the right man in the right place at a club where success has been the norm over the past two decades. Moyes was selected by Ferguson to succeed him after a 27-year reign that produced 38 trophies.
Moyes, whose only previous honour was the third-tier title he won with Preston in 2000 before 11 trophyless, though not unsuccessful, years with Everton, started his United stint in style with a 2-0 win over Wigan in the Community Shield last Sunday.
It has been the saga of the off-season, and it does not look like it’s nearing an end as United continue to block Chelsea’s pursuit of Wayne Rooney.
United have already rejected two offers from the London side for the England striker, who is said to be unhappy at the club, where he has to live in the shadow of Robin van Persie.
The Netherlands striker was instrumental in United’s quest for their record-extending 20th English title, claiming the league’s Golden Boot after scoring 26 goals.
Rooney has not played in any of the official pre-season matches, and a shoulder injury kept him out of the Community Shield win over Wigan.
There was the star-studded class of 1992, and it’s time for United’s new generation of gifted players to emerge.
On top of this list stand Adnan Januzaj and Jesse Lingard, who stood out during United’s pre-season tour and are expected to be given first-team opportunities.
A Manchester boy, Lingard was called up for England’s Under-21 friendly with Scotland this week. He can play on the flanks or in a more central role, while Januzaj is a well-balanced midfielder from Belgium.
Another one to watch is Wilfried Zaha, the former Crystal Palace forward regarded by pundits as a future great after he played a crucial part in Palace’s promotion to the top-flight.
With less than three weeks to go before the transfer window closes, United are still chasing a big-money signing that would help launch the Moyes era.
The Red Devils have failed in their attempts to lure Thiago Alcantara and Cesc Fabregas from Barcelona. United are also expected to make offers for Everton’s Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini.
Relying on the Old Guard
For his first season in charge, Moyes can count on some precious advice from the most decorated player in British football history, Ryan Giggs, who has been named player-coach.
Giggs has spent his entire career at United since making his debut in 1991. He has been taking his coaching diplomas and is due to attain the Uefa Pro Licence. Former Everton and United player Phil Neville has also joined the Red Devils’ backroom staff as first-team coach.
New man in charge
Manuel Pellegrini goes into the 2013-14 season knowing that nothing short of winning the Premier League title will be viewed as a success by the Manchester City board, who sacked title-winning manager Roberto Mancini last season with two games remaining in a trophyless campaign.
Pellegrini, who left Spanish side Malaga, will also need to integrate some young players into the first team. City stressed the need for a more effective approach to player development when announcing the departure of Mancini.
Champions League: Must Do Better
Aside from the domestic campaign, Pellegrini will be expected to take City further than the group stages of the Champions League this season.
After failing to qualify for the knockout rounds for two consecutive seasons, owner Sheikh Mansour will be eager to see City competing in the latter stages of club football’s most illustrious competition, having spent millions on players.
Big Money, Big Signings
Despite highlighting a desire for a change in approach last season, Mansour has allowed Pellegrini to spend significantly to stamp his own mark on the squad.
Fernandinho has signed from Shakhtar Donetsk for a reported £34million, bringing some important Champions League experience with him after playing in the competition for the past eight seasons.
City also signed midfielder Jesus Navas and striker Alvaro Negredo from Sevilla, along with another attacker, Fiorentina’s Steven Jovetic. The three players cost a reported total of $102m.
Tevez, Others Depart
The exit of Carlos Tevez is City’s most notable departure during the off-season.
The Argentina striker has moved to Juventus after an eventful four years that saw him return to help City win their first Premier League title after resolving a row with Mancini that had left him exiled from the squad in 2011-12.
Elsewhere, defender Kolo Toure has joined Liverpool after his contract expired, and Brazil defender Maicon joined Roma for an undisclosed fee. Former England defender Wayne Bridge has joined Reading.
Good Start Is Key
It is possible that City could open up a gap over cross-town rivals and champions Manchester United after the first five games of the season.
While United start their season away to League Cup winners Swansea before tough games against Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea at Old Trafford and a trip to Anfield to play Liverpool, City face Newcastle at home before taking on the two promoted teams, Cardiff and Hull.
City and United will face each other in the fifth fixture of their respective campaigns, so if City have not started well against teams they are expected to beat, the pressure will already be mounting on Pellegrini. But start well and beat United on September 22, and City could secure a dominant position during the early stages.
The Return of Mourinho
After his acrimonious departure from Stamford Bridge early in the 2007-08 season, Jose Mourinho has returned to Chelsea after spells in Italy and Spain coaching Inter Milan and Real Madrid.
He won the Premier League and League Cup twice and the FA Cup once during his first reign at the London club and, while he will aim to make Chelsea the champions again, delivering the Champions League will also be a priority.
Mourinho was openly frustrated at his failure to win the tournament last time around, but he has won it with Porto and Inter, so won’t doubt his chances of success with Chelsea this time around.
Changing of the Guard
Frank Lampard, John Terry and Ashley Cole are the only remaining players who played for Mourinho during his first stint at the club, but all are now in the twilight of their careers, and the returning coach is likely to keep an eye out for potential replacements.
Young players such as Nathan Ake and Nathaniel Chalobah have been earmarked as potential first-team players, but are likely a couple of years away from making an impact.
Mourinho will need to decide whether to afford them playing time or send them out on loan to gain experience.
Schuerrle, Van Ginkel Join
Mourinho has brought in Andre Schuerrle from Bayer Leverkusen and Marco van Ginkel from Vitesse Arnhem to reinforce his attacking options.
The 22-year-old Schuerrle can play as a wide attacker or as a central striker, and has already played 24 times for Germany.
Van Ginkel, a 20-year-old winger, was voted Dutch Talent of the Year after impressing during the 2012-13 season, and will be looking to perform well enough at Chelsea to add to his solitary international cap with The Netherlands.
Lukaku or Torres?
Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku will undoubtedly challenge Fernando Torres for a place in Chelsea’s starting XI.
Lukaku scored 17 goals in 38 appearances while on loan at West Brom last season, including a hat trick on the final day of the season against Manchester United. Lukaku is 1.93m (6ft 4in) tall and very quick; at only 20 years of age, he will likely still improve.
Torres managed a return of 22 goals last season, but has never truly rediscovered the clinical finishing touch he showed while at Liverpool.
Will They Sign Rooney?
Chelsea’s top target of the transfer window is Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney.
They have had two offers rejected, but Rooney is said to be interested in a move to Chelsea. Rooney was not included by United coach David Moyes for last Sunday’s Community Shield win against Wigan due to a shoulder injury, but was deemed fit enough to play for England against Scotland on Wednesday by England coach Roy Hodgson.
No Major Signing
During an off-season in which manager Arsene Wenger was expected to spend big on players, Arsenal have managed to complete just one signing – striker Yaya Sanogo from second-tier French club Auxerre on a free transfer.
The 20-year-old Sanogo scored 11 goals in 24 appearances last season, and has represented France at Under-21 level.
Wenger failed in his attempt to sign Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain, who joined Napoli from Real Madrid.
The Suarez Saga
Arsenal’s pursuit of Luis Suarez has been one of the biggest transfer stories, but appears to have reached a dead end. Wenger had a £40m and £1 bid rejected by Liverpool.
The 26-year-old Suarez, who scored 30 times for Liverpool last season, went public with his desire to leave the side for the London club, citing his desperation to play in the Champions League at the peak of his career.
Days later, reports in the media quoted Liverpool owner John W Henry as saying they cannot sell Suarez to a club they want to beat to a Champions League place, and gave a resounding assurance Suarez would not leave Liverpool.
Arshavin, Gervinho, Others Depart
Despite only bringing in one player, Wenger has overseen a host of exits at the Emirates. Gervinho has joined Roma for an undisclosed fee, and Andrei Arshavin has rejoined Zenit St Petersburg on a free transfer.
Defender Sebastien Squillaci has likewise departed, joining French side Bastia also on a free, while goalkeeper Vito Manone has moved to Sunderland.
Defender Johan Djourou will spend next season on loan at German club Hamburg, while midfielder Denilson has joined Sao Paolo and Andre Santos moved to Flamengo.
Wilshere Is Vital
Midfielder Jack Wilshere staying fit could be integral to Arsenal’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League and winning a trophy for the first time since the 2005 FA Cup.
The 21-year-old Wilshere, a central midfielder who links play between midfield and attack and has an eye for goal, returned to the first team last season after recovering from an ankle injury that kept him out for the entire 2011-12 campaign.
With the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, potentially Wilshere’s first international tournament, just a year away, the England international will be keen to enjoy a successful year with the Gunners.
End of an Era
Chairman Peter Hill-Wood stepped down as chairman due to serious health issues, ending the 83-year association between the Hill-Wood family and Arsenal.
Hill-Wood had a major heart attack in December 2012, but despite beginning to recover, he has handed over the role of chairman to Chips Keswick, a former director of the Bank of England. Hill-Wood took over as Arsenal chairman in 1982.
The Big Signing
There will be competition up front at White Hart Lane, with Emmanuel Adebayor and Jermaine Defoe expected to face a strong challenge from new signing Roberto Soldado.
Tottenham broke their transfer record to sign Spanish striker Soldado from Valencia, in a deal worth e30m, having already recruited Paulinho from Corinthians for e20m.
Soldado, a member of the Spain team that finished runners-up at the Confederations Cup, has scored 80 goals in 146 appearances for Valencia.
Spurs have also completed the signing of French midfielder Etienne Capoue from Toulouse.
Soldado’s arrival at the club would prove a particularly wise move if Gareth Bale leaves. Bale, English football’s Player of the Year last season, is coveted by Real Madrid, with Manchester United reportedly also interested in buying the winger.
Tottenham remain in talks with Madrid regarding a potential transfer, with reports suggesting the fee could exceed the record amount of e93.9m that Madrid paid Manchester United for Cristiano Ronaldo in 2009.
Champions League Ambitions
Tottenham finished fifth last season behind bitter rivals Arsenal, missing out on a Champions League spot on the final day of the season for the second year running, qualifying for the Europa League instead.
Although Bale’s departure would be a blow to Tottenham’s ambition of securing a return to European club football’s most prestigious competition next season, qualifying for the Champions League is a must for coach Andre Villas-Boas.
New Director of Football
Former England assistant coach Franco Baldini is the club’s new technical director.
The Italian, who was Fabio Capello’s No 2 with England, quit his role as general director at Serie A side Roma in June, and his new position will involve taking charge of Tottenham’s scouting and player recruitment.
Bye Bye Clint
Clint Dempsey’s six-year spell in English football came to an end when Tottenham reached an agreement to transfer the United States forward to Major League Soccer side Seattle Sounders.
The 30-year-old Dempsey joined Fulham in 2007. He moved to Tottenham last summer and scored 12 goals in 43 games, but wasn’t a regular starter for the team.
Four New Arrivals
Coach Brendan Rodgers has made four off-season signings as he looks to push Liverpool towards the top four of the Premier League and qualification for the Champions League.
Central defender Kolo Toure has joined from Manchester City on a free transfer, while forward Luis Alberto signed from Sevilla, alongside Spanish compatriot and striker Iago Aspas from Celta Vigo. Aspas has impressed during Liverpool’s pre-season friendlies, scoring four goals in seven games.
Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet completed a move from Sunderland, replacing Pepe Reina, who left on loan for Napoli to play under former Liverpool and Chelsea boss Rafael Benitez.
The Luis Suarez transfer saga has dragged on, but his situation has seemed more of a case of when he would leave, rather than if.
He spoke publicly of his desire to move to Premier League rivals Arsenal, with the lure of Champions League football on offer, while he was in the peak of his career.
Liverpool rejected a £40m and £1 bid from Arsenal; an offer Suarez believed activated a release clause in his contract, before owner John W Henry gave an “unequivocal” assurance to Liverpool fans through the English media that Suarez will not be sold to a team they aim to beat to Champions League qualification.
Suarez then told Uruguayan newspaper El Observador he would stay at Liverpool due to the fans’ adoration of him.
Carroll, Downing, Shelvey and Others Out
Aside from Pepe Reina, there have been several other exits from the club.
Andy Carroll signed for West Ham United on a permanent deal after spending the 2012-13 season on loan at the London side, and has been joined there by midfielder Stewart Downing.
Jonjo Shelvey joined League Cup winners Swansea City for £5m, while Jay Spearing also turned his loan to second-tier Bolton into a permanent switch.
Spain Under-19 midfielder Suso, who featured prominently in the first half of last season, has gone on loan to La Liga side Almeria for 2013-14.
Daniel Agger has been appointed as the club’s new vice-captain following the retirement of Jamie Carragher.
The Denmark defender has made 209 appearances for Liverpool since arriving in January 2006 from Brondby, and Rodgers highlighted Agger’s passion for the team as a determining factor in making the decision.
Big Year For Coutinho
With the World Cup less than a year away, Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho will be looking to impress Brazil coach Luis Felipe Scolari enough to add to his solitary cap for the Brazil national side.
Signed from Inter Milan in January, Coutinho closed last season with a number of impressive performances, demonstrating some magical creative flair alongside an eye for goal.
A whole season in the same vein of form should see Coutinho involved in the 2014 World Cup host nation’s squad. – Sapa-AP
Liverpool v Stoke, Arsenal v Aston Villa, Norwich v Everton, Sunderland v Fulham, West Brom v Southampton, West Ham v Cardiff, Swansea v Manchester United.
Palace v Tottenham, Chelsea v Hull.
Monday, August 19
Manchester City v Newcastle.
Wednesday, August 21
Chelsea v Aston Villa.
Saturday, August 24
Fulham v Arsenal, Everton v West Brom, Hull v Norwich, Newcastle v West Ham, Southampton v Sunderland, Stoke v Crystal Palace, Aston Villa v Liverpool.
Sunday, August 25
Cardiff v Manchester City, Tottenham v Swansea.
Monday, August 26
Manchester United v Chelsea.