Fergie needs extras to do Double again

The English Premier League used to be hailed as the most exciting in the world even if the best players did not ply their trade there.

Now that it is the richest, the best generally do play there, so it’s no wonder that any one of the Big Four could do the Double which Manchester United achieved last season.

Winning the Premiership and Champions League again will be a tough task for Fergie and it seems unlikely, such is the competitive nature at the top.

Okay, United won the Community Shield on Sunday, albeit on penalties after a 0-0 draw against Portsmouth. No big deal. Rivals Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool will be challenging throughout the season as usual.

United have no significant changes in their squad. So far, Fergie has not secured any big name replacements – but history shows that he needs to.

United’s weakness is definitely in attack. Cristiano Ronaldo is injured and unsettled and I’m pretty certain he won’t get anything like the 42 goals of last season. After all, his heart is not really in Manchester anymore. Madrid beckons, even if it’s in a year’s time.

Fergie admits he is trying to sign the unhappy Thierry Henry from Barcelona. That would be a coup if Henry can recapture his old Gunners form.

With only Tevez and Rooney as bankable strikers – Saha is now surplus to requirements – only Nani looks like a potential match winner.

The fact that Giggs at 34 is still commanding a first-team place shows that United are a little lean on fire power. Man Utd play Newcastle at home on Sunday so should start the season impressively.

Chelsea are still bedding in new manager Luis Felipe Scolari who has made his presence immediately felt. From his time with the Portuguese national team he has signed midfielder Deco and right back Jose Bosingwa. Brazilian ace Robinho is poised for a big money move to Stamford Bridge too.

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is notoriously ruthless and Big Phil knows that anything less than a Champions League win in his first season is failure. Despite Avram Grant coming so close to doing the Double himself in a short space, the Russian boss was not satisfied and wielded the axe.

Chelsea have Portsmouth at home on Sunday, not a foregone conclusion considering how many quality players Harry Redknapp has taken to the South Coast club in recent years.

If Chelsea are a Portuguese outpost then Liverpool are the Spanish equivalent and Arsenal the French version.

Rafa Benitez has to deliver too at Anfield as the Kop faithful are fed up with never finishing higher than third in the Prem despite their excellent European record.

Signing Robbie Keane was an inspirational move by Rafa and if he can link well with Fernando Torres, Liverpool might find the domestic bliss they’ve craved for nearly two decades.

With Captain Marvel, Stevie G, pitching in vital goals, Liverpool might break the duopoly. On Saturday Liverpool travel to Sunderland, who are never easy to beat under the wily Roy Keane.

Cash-poor Arsenal have to rely on their talented youngsters again, headed by Fabregas and Van Persie but at least they kept Adebayor and have signed a gifted midfielder in Samir Nasri. Welsh teenager Aaron Ramsey may take a season to fit in but at least Theo Walcott is ready to take responsibility after two years of being wrapped in cotton wool.

But having lost Hleb and Flamini, the Gunners will once again have a thin squad for the last third of the season when fatigue, injuries and suspensions kick in. Arsenal are home to West Brom on Saturday so should bag three easy points.

Spurs will be anxious, as usual, to usurp their north London rivals. With a trio of new midfielders in David Bentley, Luca Modric and Giovani Dos Santos arriving at White Heart Lane; optimism is high.

If brilliant striker Dimitar Berbatov does not move to Old Trafford, they could have a side capable of breaking the Big Four domination. Tottenham play Middlesbrough away on Saturday and should get at least a draw.

My prediction is a Chelsea Premiership victory and Liverpool to win the Champions League.

Aston Villa under Martin O’Neill are becoming a force and Everton are also a tough unit to break down.

Of the newcomers, Stoke City and Hull City should make the most of their season in the Prem because it won’t last. Wigan, Bolton or Fulham can expect to join them in the drop.

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