The new English Premier League season gets under way this weekend with Manchester United FC looking to fend off the chasing pack as they go in search of a fifth title in six years.
Sir Alex Ferguson's side set the seal on their 19th crown with a 1-1 draw against Blackburn Rovers FC on the penultimate day of last season to surpass Liverpool FC's previous benchmark of 18 English championships. United have since added Ashley Young, Phil Jones and David de Gea to a squad already brimming with talent and laid down an early marker by overturning a two-goal deficit to defeat neighbours Manchester City FC 3-2 in the FA Community Shield last Sunday.
Their target, naturally enough, is to retain their trophy. "We're champions and we're the team to beat so we need to go out and prove that," said Wayne Rooney, whose team visit West Bromwich Albion FC on Sunday. "It's a long season and there are a lot of good teams in the league, but our main aim is to win that title again."
Shortly before United kick-off, last season's runners-up Chelsea FC will begin to answer the question of how André Villas-Boas will fare in his maiden campaign as manager when they visit UEFA Europa League play-off contenders Stoke City FC. Villas-Boas is inevitably drawing comparisons to José Mourinho, having lifted four trophies during his sole season in charge of FC Porto, and one of his first tasks will be to get the best out of striker Fernando Torres, who managed just one goal in 14 league appearances after joining from Liverpool FC in January.
Undeterred by Sunday's loss at Wembley Stadium, Manchester City will almost certainly have a say in the title race with Roberto Mancini spending big on Stefan Savić, Gaël Clichy and Sergio Agüero. His charges pipped Arsenal FC to third spot last time out, but the Gunners – having signed Gervinho – are keen to end a six-year wait for a trophy, though there may be more team changes to come after visiting Newcastle United FC on Saturday evening.
In Liverpool's first full season since the reappointment of the man that managed them to their last title in 1989/90, Kenny Dalglish, they have improved their attack with Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam and Stewart Downing. "We wanted to improve the squad this summer and we think we've done that by bringing in the individuals we have," said Dalglish. "We want to compete at the highest level possible and we feel those players can help us do that."
For the 20th season since the Premier League was formed, two teams that performed well in that first 1992/93 campaign are back in the top flight, Queens Park Rangers FC at home to Bolton Wanderers FC, and Norwich City FC travelling to Wigan Athletic FC. The first Welsh team to make it to the top division since 1982/83, Swansea City FC, get started at Manchester City on Monday night.
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