OPINION: Sir Alex Ferguson calls the Premier League the toughest football league in the world to win.
And it certainly is if you haven't got zillionaire owners from Russia, Abu Dhabi or the United States. Money talks way louder than tactics and that's why the combined chance of every team in the Premier League - other than Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea - is precisely zero.
The rest just don't have the spending power to mix it with the big three, and rival managers must gag when they hear City manager Roberto Mancini, who's already spent swillions assembling the squad from hell, complain that he's been unable to spend up large this close season.
In goalkeeper Joe Hart, centreback Vincent Kompany, midfielder Yaya Toure and winger David Silva, he has the best players in their positions in the competition. And in strikers Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero and Mario Ballotelli, he also has three of the best five or six strikers.
Just as well for City that they didn't win the race for United's new hitman Robin van Persie. The attention-seeking brats Tevez and Ballotelli would have gone into a Chernobyl-scale meltdown at the prospect of sharing the limelight.
Making Mancini even grumpier is the fact that out-of-favour striker Emmanuel Adebayor refuses to bugger off and free up his vast pay packet of £170,000 pounds (NZ$345,000) a week for Mancini to spend on new players.
If he moved permanently to, say, Spurs where he played on loan last season, he'd have to take a 50 per cent pay cut, so he'd rather continue having his cake as per his contract, thank you very much, even if it comes with a large dollop of cold frosting from Mancini.
Speaking of nice little earners, Van Persie has doubled his income to £250k a week with his switch to Old Trafford, and probably doubled United's chance of reclaiming their title as well.
Of course the money had nothing to do with it, he's only going because United have more chances of winning cups.
Which they do now, as RVP should be worth an extra 10 points. Not only does the Dutchman know where they goal is - he's scored 48 goals in his last 55 league games - he's also provided more assists over the last three seasons than anyone else.
Manager Ferguson has long believed that, to compete for all the cups, a team needs four top strikers.
Though youngsters Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck are far from the finished articles like senior partners van Persie and Wayne Rooney, Ferguson will feel he's now got the depth of firepower needed. It'll be interesting to see if Ferguson plays van Persie when United visit Arsenal.
The famous Youtube “Arsenal fan rant” gives a good indication of the treatment Van Persie can expect from the paying customers if he takes the field.
Midfield has also been a concern for Ferguson, but if Tom Cleverley, Darren Fletcher and Anderson can stay fit, United are a fair bet to add to the 12 EPL titles they've won in just 20 seasons of the competition, and further disprove their manager's claim that it's a tough league.
Chelsea, the third horse in the race, have spent heavily in order to bridge the whopping 25-point gap that separated them from top spot last season.
Their lucky European Champions league win hasn't fooled owner Roman Abramovich that the team is good enough to reclaim the title they've won three times since he bought the club in 2003, so he's splashed out £64m on new players.
With talisman Didier Drogba gone, the burden of goals falls on Fernando Torres, but even if he recaptures the form that made him the world's most feared striker just a few seasons ago, Chelsea will struggle to keep pace.
Outside the top three, the usual contenders will scrap for the lucrative fourth position, which earns qualification for the Champions League.
Leading this bunch will be Arsenal and Spurs, who both look like world beaters on their day, but who lack the depth or consistency to amass the 90-odd points it'll take to be a serious player in the title race.
Liverpool are hoping to take the fourth spot to, but these days it takes more than a new manager - Brendan Rodgers replacing Kenny Dalglish - to turn around a club that has fallen so far from their lofty perch.
It takes money. Lots and lots of money.
Nearly every other team has just one ambition for the season - to survive. Among the teams scrapping for every last point are Queens Park Rangers and West Ham United, the clubs where All Whites defenders Ryan Nelsen and Winston Reid ply their trade.
QPR were in danger of going down until the last day of last season, so to avoid any more heart attacks, manager Mark Hughes - Nelsen's old boss at Blackburn Rovers - has splashed the cash.
In come strikers Andy Johnson and the electric Junior Hoilett, midfielder Park Ji Sung from Manchester United, England goalkeeper Rob Green and defenders Nelsen, from Spurs, and Fabio, on loan from United.
Hughes needs to conduct one more important piece of business to help build team spirit and that is to transfer troublemaker Joey Barton to a club as far away as possible.
Last time Winston Reid appeared in the Premier League, during West Ham's relegation season two years ago, he appeared out of his depth.
But a regular position in the team as the Hammers bounced straight back will have done wonders for his education and confidence.
Manager Sam Allardyce is not a man for producing pretty teams, but he produces effective ones, and he'll mould his team of largely unknown names into a combative unit, though it's doubtful exciting Malian striker Modibo Maiga, signed from Sochaux in France, will stay unknown for long.
- © Fairfax NZ News