Moyes' boys begin title defense at Swansea
Swansea, Wales – It has been a largely transitional summer for many Premier League clubs, but there has been no more high-profile turnover than the managerial change at Manchester United.
Sir Alex Ferguson called time on an unprecedented management career when the legendary United boss announced his retirement just before the conclusion of last season's Premier League campaign. He went out a high note, leading the Red Devils to a 20th top-flight title and 13th Premier League title.
David Moyes was appointed as Ferguson's replacement, and the former Everton boss has his work cut out for him as his dubious task of continuing United's long-standing familiarity with success starts Saturday when the club heads to the Liberty Stadium to begin its title defense with a match against Swansea City.
The Swans will face a side virtually identical to United's squad last term as the Red Devils have been quite static in the summer transfer window. The club's only summer acquisition of note has been 20-year-old defender Guillermo Varela, who joined United on a flyer from Uruguayan club Penarol.
The reigning champions will, however, be buoyed by the addition of Wilfried Zaha. The 20-year-old became a United player in January but remained with Crystal Palace as part of a loan deal to help the Eagles gain promotion to the Premier League. Zaha has arrived at Old Trafford to improve United's relatively putrid wing play from last season, and he has already received glowing reviews.
"The thing that has most impressed me about (Zaha) is his raw ability," said United defender Rio Ferdinand. "He's quick and direct, but what has surprised me more than anything is how quickly he gets his shots off. He's a winger, but he seems to have a hunger to get inside and cause trouble in the opponents' box, and that's a good thing to have.
"He's a raw talent with great individual skills who can only get better. The early signs are he's a hard worker who wants to improve and be a top footballer."
While United could be poised to make a late splash in the transfer market, it's safe to say that the club will rely on Robin van Persie to produce the goods up front for a second consecutive season. The Dutchman signed for United just days before the club's first Premier League contest last term, and his 26 league goals were attributed by many to be the difference between United winning the title and finishing second fiddle to Manchester City for a second straight campaign.
And City's slip to the runner-up position ultimately cost manager Roberto Mancini his job. After helping to end City's 44-year drought without a top- flight title, the club replaced the Italian this summer with Manuel Pellegrini, who arrived at the Etihad from Malaga.
Pellegrini bolstered his squad with several notable signings including Stevan Jovetic, Alvaro Negredo, Fernandinho and Jesus Navas, throwing the gauntlet down to City's bitter city rival. The Citizens will attempt to regain the title by kicking off their season with maximum points against Newcastle on Monday.
The third major summer change came at Stamford Bridge. After a third-place finish last term, Chelsea replaced interim boss Rafa Benitez with Jose Mourinho, who previously managed the Blues from 2004 to 2007. The self- proclaimed 'Special One' was quite successful in his first stint in charge of the Blues, claiming two straight Premier League titles in addition to the club's 2007 FA Cup triumph. His return to west London starts Sunday when the club hosts newly-promoted Hull City.
While United, City and Chelsea figure to be contending for top spot, a handful of teams will be battling for European positions with the hopes of sneaking into the title race.
Arsene Wenger will look to take advantage of his status as the Premier League's longest-serving manager as Arsenal hopes to return to prominence in the top flight. The Gunners, without a trophy since 2005, begin their new season on Saturday against Aston Villa at the Emirates.
Tottenham and Liverpool return to action under second-year managers as Andre Villas-Boas leads Spurs to Selhurst Park to face Crystal Palace on Sunday before Brendan Rodgers helps the Reds open the Premier League season against Stoke City at Anfield on Saturday.
Rounding out Saturday's opening slate of Premier League action, Norwich City hosts Everton at Carrow Road, Cardiff City heads to Upton Park to face West Ham, Sunderland takes on Fulham at the Stadium of Light, and West Bromwich Albion welcomes Southampton to the Hawthorns.