So, in the year after the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson four sides that would have struggled had he remained manager are now bidding for the title of Premier League Champions.
Yesterday’s results that saw Liverpool humble the ageing giant that is now Manchester United, and Arsenal grinding out a result against a Spurs side that showed plenty of energy but little else, means that the Premier League is wide open, and promises to be even more exciting this year than it was when Manchester City grabbed a winner in the dying minutes of the season to steal the title.
Only one of the top four has the distraction of Europe – though that should not be a problem for Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea, whose side’s shock defeat on Saturday to Aston Villa now means all bets are off.
Mourinho has the experience and steely determination to steer his side through two tough tournaments simultaneously, although his Chelsea side are not the sharpest in the Premier League – that is surely Manchester City who are now favourites to take their second title in three seasons.
Mathematically, Liverpool can’t win should Chelsea win all their games, although this remains a league where the bottom side can still inflict a defeat on the top one. And that leaves Arsène Wenger’s Arsenal who having lost to Bayern Munich despite a very encouraging performance, who are in with a shout for the FA Cup and who managed to make Tottenham look like a second league side despite their North London rivals having most of the possession.
Until yesterday’s win, most people had written off the Gunners’ chances. But they remain contenders – whether they can make it count this season is of course another matter.