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New-look United set to run Chelsea close

After a busy close-season in the transfer market, Manchester United are looking to mount a concerted Premier League title challenge as they bid to return to the summit of English football.

Under Louis van Gaal last season, United repaired some of the damage done during the ill-fated David Moyes era, achieving a top-four finish to qualify for the UEFA Champions League.

However, they were still a long way behind champions Chelsea, who won the title by eight points ahead of Manchester City and finished 17 better off than United.

Van Gaal has laid down a marker in the transfer window, though, with the arrivals of Memphis Depay, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin a signal of the Dutchman’s intent.

Chelsea, meanwhile, have added goalkeeper Asmir Begovic from Stoke City along with Radamel Falcao on loan, despite the Colombia international failing to impress at Old Trafford last term.

Sandwiched between Chelsea and United last season were City and Arsenal, and those two clubs will be strongly fancied to challenge once more.

City have added an extra dimension of pace to their game with the drawn-out capture of Raheem Sterling from Liverpool, while Arsenal look to have finally solved their goalkeeping issues with Petr Cech’s arrival from Stamford Bridge.

Liverpool have rivalled United for activity in the transfer market, Christian Benteke their marquee signing from Aston Villa, and the Belgium international made an impressive start with a stunning volley on debut in a pre-season friendly at Swindon Town.

Brendan Rodgers will hope the guile of Roberto Firmino and the experience of James Milner will help push his side back into the top four, while Tottenham will be desperate to improve on their fifth-place finish last time out.

Southampton, Swansea City and Stoke all enjoyed stellar campaigns in 2014-15, but it looks a big ask for any of those three clubs to take the next step and break into the top six.

Crystal Palace made excellent progress under Alan Pardew last season and the arrival of Yohan Cabaye is a real statement of intent at Selhurst Park, while Everton fans will expect to improve on their placing of 11th and mount a challenge for at least UEFA Europa League qualification.

The two sleeping giants in the north east, Newcastle United and Sunderland, endured disappointing campaigns last time out but may face 2015-16 with renewed optimism.

The pair narrowly avoided relegation back in May but Newcastle now have former England boss Steve McClaren in charge, while Sunderland were boosted by the news that Dick Advocaat will stay on for this season after guiding the club away from danger three months ago.

Like Newcastle, Leicester City and West Ham also have new men at the helm, former Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri replacing Nigel Pearson at the King Power Stadium and cult figure Slaven Bilic taking the reins at Upton Park.

A season of greater stability is the target at West Brom under Tony Pulis, and likewise at Aston Villa after Tim Sherwood preserved their top-flight status.

Of the three promoted clubs, Bournemouth get a taste of the Premier League for the first time, while Norwich City celebrate an immediate return after relegation in 2013-14 and Watford are back after a nine-year absence.

Wed 5 Aug, 2015
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