Surely Manchester United can’t retain their crown?
Markets tell stories, both stock markets and betting markets. When Sir Alex Ferguson shocked the football world with his retirement in May, £100 million was knocked off the value of Manchester United on Wall Street that very night.
And though things have settled down since in that area, the betting market is now also telling a tale of unease at Old Trafford. We should remember that United won the Premiership in a canter last season and yet they start this new campaign as third favourites with Coral at 5/2 behind Manchester City and Chelsea, joint market leaders at 9/4.
This could be taken as a bit of an insult in the United camp, but of course the market doesn’t deal in slurs; it merely reacts to changing situations and there is no doubt that Fergie’s retirement and his replacement by David Moyes – much admired, but unproven at the highest level – is the main explanation for the change in the bookies’ pecking order
And while Moyes has so far been frustrated in attempts to bring in new talent this summer, Manuel Pellegrini has strengthened his City squad significantly – especially with the signing of exciting Spanish winger, Jesus Navas – while the return of Jose Mourinho to Chelsea has been enough in itself for confidence to soar again at Stamford Bridge.
There’s another thing, too; United’s difficult start to the season. Much has been made of their early clashes against Chelsea, Liverpool and City, but they may have their work cut out getting something out of their opening fixture at upwardly mobile Swansea. If they aren’t careful, the Champions could be playing catch-up very soon.
But isn’t this a great League? You hear people talk about the Premiership being a closed shop, but compare it to the other top Leagues around Europe and you will see just how competitive it is: there are odds-on favourites in France (PSG, 2/5), Germany (Bayern Munich, 2/9), Italy (Juventus, 5/6), Portugal (Benfica and Porto, 10/11 joint), Spain (Barcelona, 8/11) and Turkey (Galatasaray (8/11).
In England we have three teams rated about equal and then there is also a realistic challenge from Arsenal (10/1). Liverpool (16/1) and Spurs (40/1) aren’t just making up the numbers, either, although the potency of their threats will depend largely on whether they can keep hold of Luis Suarez and Gareth Bale respectively.
Arsenal, Liverpool and Spurs will most likely be fighting it out for the final Champions League place, just as they were last season. Coral expect Arsenal to just shade it – they are 8/13 to finish in the top four with Liverpool 13/8 and Spurs 15/8.
Written by Jon Freeman