When the sun rises on the 2013-14 Premier League campaign on Saturday, it will reveal a landscape that has changed immeasurably in the 91 days since last season.
Familiar faces like Alex Ferguson, Jamie Carragher, Paul Scholes and Michael Owen have moved on, with new managers and
a raft of multi-million-pound signings hoping to plug the holes that they have left behind.
Heightening the sensation of new beginnings is the pioneering introduction of goal-line technology, with Hawk-Eye systems now in place at all 20 EPL grounds.
The sense of unfamiliarity will be nowhere more apparent than at Swansea City’s Liberty Stadium, where champions Manchester United will play a league game with a manager other than Ferguson in the dug-out for the first time since November 1, 1986.
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Moyes in charge
Former Everton manager David Moyes is the man charged with the weighty task of stepping into Ferguson’s shoes, and with games against Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City to follow in quick succession, he cannot afford a slow start.
“I think it’s the hardest start for 20 years that Manchester United have had,” Moyes said. “I hope it’s not because Manchester United won the league quite comfortably last year that the fixtures have been made much more difficult.”
The first few weeks of Moyes’ Old Trafford tenure have been dogged by speculation about the future of striker Wayne Rooney, whose fitness will be assessed prior to the game after he made his return from injury in England’s 3-2 friendly win over Scotland on Wednesday.
United’s two closest rivals from last season are also under new management, with Manuel Pellegrini replacing the sacked Roberto Mancini at Manchester City and Jose Mourinho returning to Chelsea to succeed Rafael Benitez.
City, who have spent an estimated £90 million on new players, do not begin their season until Monday, when they host Newcastle United, with Chelsea in action a day earlier when promoted Hull City are the visitors to Stamford Bridge.
Spurs have also spent heavily in the close season, with the acquisition of France midfielder Etienne Capoue nudging their total outlay towards the £60million mark.
It is Gareth Bale’s mooted move to Real Madrid that has most occupied manager Andre Villas-Boas’ thoughts this summer, however, although the Welshman will be absent at Selhurst Park with a foot injury.
Once again, Spurs will aim to pip Arsenal to a Champions League spot.
Managers take spotlight
The approaching Premier League season will be defined to a large extent by the ability of the new managers at England’s three leading clubs to tackle the challenges awaiting them.
Last season’s top three sides are all under new management, with David Moyes succeeding Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, Manuel Pellegrini taking over from the sacked Roberto Mancini at Manchester City, and Jose Mourinho returning to Chelsea.
Amid the attendant flux, there are expectations that a new order could emerge in the Although Moyes inherited a squad that finished the last campaign as convincing champions, he has no experience of competing at the very top of the table and will find Ferguson’s shadow wherever he turns.
Ferguson led United to 38 titles during his 26-year tenure, turning the club into one of the biggest names in global sport, and fans will be quick to pine for his return if Moyes fails to successfully negotiate an awkward opening run of fixtures that includes meetings with Chelsea, City and Liverpool.
Unlike Moyes, Mourinho knows what it takes to win the Premier League, having led Chelsea to successive title triumphs in 2005 and 2006.
In returning to Chelsea from Real Madrid, he has ignored the old football truism that says one must never revisit the scene of former glories, but this time he is determined to lay down a lasting legacy.
The 50-year-old Portuguese returns to find a squad now geared towards patient possession football, rather than the counter-attacking style he introduced during his first stint at Stamford Bridge.
Pellegrini, the former Villarreal, Real Madrid and Malaga coach, has never worked in England before, but the early conclusion of City’s transfer business has given him ample time to get to know his squad.
The urbane 59-year-old Chilean has £90 million of new talent at his disposal in the shape of Spain pair Jesus Navas and Alvaro Negredo, Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho and Montenegrin forward Stevan Jovetic, all of whom had arrived by late July.
“I think we have the best squad in England,” Pellegrini said last week. “We bought four important players, we already had a very good team and with these four players I think we improved a lot.”
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