And we are off. The 20th Premier League season has begun, with less fanfare than recent years. Perhaps it is because it has not come on the back of another dismal international campaign by our ever failing national team. The constant rumours of transfer dealings occuring between London and Barcelona, and Manchester and Milan or Argentina seems to have taken most of the headlines.
However, Manchester now holds two title contenders with one still firmly set in the west of London. With two more in the northern territory of the capital with a sleeping giant of Liverpool attempting to waken from a season of slumber of last year. Liverpool aim to recapture glory by splashing out, all for the guarantee of the treasured fourth place. Seemingly, the season looks like a three-horse race for the title with three gunning for one place.
Arsenal gained 4th place and yet with the departure now of club captain, Cesc Fabregas to his beloved Barcelona, the future seems uncertain at the Emirates. The talisman has gone, leaving two teenagers to protect a midfield. The opportunity for Liverpool or Tottenham to snatch fourth is there.
I predicted a top 4 of United, Chelsea, City and Liverpool, if Fabregas was sold. Now I look assured in my selection.
As for the first weekend of action, well following on from the thrilling Community Shield at Wembley last week goals were hard to come by for the most exciting league in the world.
The most goals came at Loftus Road for the returning Queens Park Rangers, who were dealt a harsh lesson, being virtually abused by Bolton who ran out 4-0 victors with goals from Gary Cahill, Ivan Klasnic, Federic Mulumbu and an own goal. QPR will have to get to grips quickly, and use Bolton as a model of stability and continuity to succeed in the division.
Wolves who survived by three minutes on the last day last season, ran out 2-1 victors away at Blackburn who look like they may encounter problems due to a lack of potency up front. Whilst Wolves look stable, have talent and in signing Jamie O'Hara from Tottenham have got their own talisman.
Liverpool for all their money and new faces ran out of steam at home to Sunderland in a 1-1 draw. For the first half they were irresistible, with Adam spreading play and Downing finding woodwork on dazzling run. Yet Sunderland, who themselves have splashed out this summer, found an equaliser from Seb Larsson a steal from Birmingham. Both sides need time to gel with the new faces, Liverpool need immediate results whilst Sunderland can have a chance at a Europa League place on either league finish or cup run.
Fulham and Villa cancelled each other out at Craven Cottage, expect more from both sides especially the attacking nature of Martin Jol's side.
At Newcastle, in another goalless draw, Arsenal seemed to have the same problems in any season. All flair and technical prowess with no finishing touch. The Gunners had enough possession to dominate but chances went begging and the loss of Gervinho for raising his hands to Joey Barton did not do any favours. Newcastle have Barton who provides passion, but without Kevin Nolan (West Ham) and Jose Enrique (Liverpool), plus the loss of Andy Carroll it could be a long haul on Tyneside.
Andre Vilas-Boas' first game for Chelsea at Stoke was largely forgettable, but for some penalty appeals. Typically physical at the Britannia, Fernando Torres found some form but no final quality, but AVB will have the familiar problem of attempting to keep Torres, Anelka and Drogba all happy. The 4-3-3 formation with Torres leading Malouda and Ramires of him. Stoke again are a sum of all their parts but with a back four that include Upson, Woodgate, Shawcross and Huth it looks formidable.
The champions returned at the Hawthorns, where last season they had their worst performance and prompted Gary Neville's retirement, on this occasion they ran out 2-1 victors thanks to the work of Ashley Young who set up Wayne Rooney for the first and then his dribble and pass led to the own goal of the winner. Although new goalkeeper, David de Gea again fluffed his lines in conceded WBA's equaliser, though for a young man to come to a new culture he has still a lot of adjusting and this will come in time. Otherwise, the movement and passing of United led by the growing maturity of Tom Cleverley in midfield means Alex Ferguson finally has the youth coming through and in Young and De Gea the notable signings to match the demands. But for their awful away form last year, they would have won the title at a canter. Last year's team would have drawn yesterday, today's team won, albeit somehow, which shows why they are the team to beat.
Tonight, Manchester City host Swansea City at the City of Manchester Stadium. United have laid down a marker, can City reply and with Sergio Aguero not likely to feature the reliance will be on Balotelli and Dzeko to lead from the front.