This weekend sees the opening fixtures of what many pundits are predicting will be the most open English Premier League season in recent memory.
Last year's top three clubs have each changed management during the summer break, with arguably the biggest change at the top occurring at Old Trafford following the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson.
During Fergie’s reign United won the Premier League a record 13 times (1992/93, 1993/94, 1995/96, 1996/97, 1998/99, 1999/2000, 2000/01, 2002/03, 2006/07, 2007/08, 2008/09, 2010/11 - a victory which gave United the record for most wins of the top division of English football, breaking a previous tie of 18 with Liverpool - and finally 2012/13.
The Scot also set a record for most wins of the Premier League Manager of the Month award, having been honoured 27 times between 1993 and 2013.
With United winning the title by a sizeable 11-point gap last term, much will be expected of his successor and fellow countryman David Moyes to hit the ground running and notch up a record-extending 21st English title.
While one Premier League legend will be missing this season, a familiar face returns to the touchline with Jose Mourinho back in the hot seat at Chelsea.
Blues fans will be hoping the self-proclaimed “Special One” will be able to match the impact he had during his first spell in charge at Stamford Bridge, a period which helped him set a record for longest football unbeaten home run by a manager, after chalking up nine years without defeat on home turf as boss during spells at Porto (Portugal), Chelsea , Inter Milan (Italy) and Real Madrid (Spain) between 22 February, 2002, and 19 February, 2011.
Manchester City, who have replaced outgoing boss Roberto Mancini with Chilean coach Manuel Pellegrini, are being tipped by many as a strong bet for this year’s title, having once again been the biggest spenders during the close season with an outlay of over £100 million in acquiring talented players like Fernandinho, Jesus Navas, Stevan Jovetic and Alvaro Negredo.
Other big transfers during the summer include Tottenham’s £17m capture of Brazilian midfielder Paulinho, West Ham’s £15m outlay for Liverpool striker Andy Carroll and Swansea’s £12m singing of Ivory Coast forward Wilfred Bony.
However, arguably the biggest transfer talking points of the summer have been deals that haven’t gone through.
Arsenal have all but given up in their pursuit of Luis Saurez from Liverpool, Chelsea’s bid to lure Man United’s Wayne Rooney has hit a deadlock, while Gareth Bale’s widely expected move from Tottenham to Spanish giants Real Madrid has so far come to nothing. Should Bale’s move to Madrid go through it’s been widely reported it will take a fee of at least £90million to prise him away from White Hart Lane, a figure that would set a record for most expensive football player, single transfer. The current record stands at £80 million – a fee paid by Real Madrid to Manchester United for Portuguese ace Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) in July 2009.
So who do you think will finish on top when the final ball is kicked in May? Let us know in the comments below. In the meantime, here’s --- key Premier League records to get you in the mood for the season ahead.
The first-ever goal scored in the English Premier League was by Brian Deane for Sheffield United against Manchester United on 15 August 1992.
The most goals scored by a club in a Premier League season is 103 by Chelsea FC in the 2009/10 campaign.
The most goals scored in the English Premiership is 260 by Alan Shearer . Shearer spent his Premiership career with Blackburn Rovers from 1992-96 before moving to Newcastle United in July 1996 for a record fee (at that time) of £15.6 million ($22.4 million), and retiring in 2006. Shearer scored an additional 24 goals for Southampton in the old First Division before it became the Premiership.
The fastest goal scored in the Premier League by a substitute is six seconds by Nicklas Bendtner (Denmark) playing for Arsenal against Tottenham Hotspur on 22 December 2007.
The fastest goal scored by a debutant in an English Premiership match is nine seconds by Ledley King playing for Tottenham Hotspur in their 3-3 draw against Bradford City on 9 December 2000.
The most consecutive Premier League seasons that an individual player has scored at least one goal in is 20, by Ryan Giggs playing for Manchester United between 1992 and 2012.
The fastest shot on goal during an English Premier League game was recorded at 183 km/h (114 mph), when a football kicked by David Hirst, playing for Sheffield Wednesday, hit the crossbar from 13.5 m (14.8 yards; 44 ft), during their match against Arsenal at Highbury, London, UK on 16 September 1996.
The lowest points total in a Premier League season is 11 by Derby County during the 2007-08 season. After all 38 games of the season Derby only won one game and conceded 89 goals.
The fewest goals conceded by team in an English Premiership is 14 by Chelsea FC in the 2004/05 season.
The most consecutive Premier League football appearances is 310 by Brad Friedel (USA) for Blackburn Rovers, Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur, between 14 August 2004 and 29 September 2012.
The longest time played by a Premiership goalkeeper without conceding a goal is 1,311 minutes by Edwin Van der Sar (Netherlands) playing for Manchester United FC between 8 November 2008 and 4 March 2009.
The most Premier League sendings off in one day is eight, on 31 October 2009. The players that received their marching orders were, Jamie Carragher , Phillip Degen (Switzerland) (both Liverpool), Kenwyne Jones (Trinidad, Sunderland), JLloyd Samuel (Trinidad, Bolton), Geovanni (Brazil, Hull City), Diniyar Bilyaletdinov (Russia, Everton) Carlos Cuellar (Spain, Aston Villa), Radoslav Kovac (Czech Republic, West Ham).
The youngest scorer in the English Premiership is James Vaughan at 16 years 271 days, for Everton against Crystal Palace on 10 April 2005.
In the 2003/04 season, Arsenal earned the nickname The Invincibles after setting a record for the first unbeaten football Premier League season after going undefeated in all 38 games, winning 26, drawing 12, losing none. In the process they scored 73 goals and conceded 26, failing to score on only four occasions. The North London team won the title with 90 points, finishing with a 2-1 victory over Leicester City at home on 15 May 2004.
The most assists made by an individual player in the English Premier League is 106 by Ryan Giggs playing for Manchester United between 1990 and 2013.
The largest comeback in Premier League history record is held by Newcastle who came back from being 4-0 down at home to Arsenal to salvage a 4-4 draw at St. James' Park on 5 February 2011.
The squad selected for the match by Arsenal against Crystal Palace on 14 February 2005, was the first all-foreign line-up to play in an English Premier League match. The squad consisted of Jens Lehmann (Germany), Lauren (Cameroon), Kolo Toure (Ivory Coast), Pascal Cygan (France), Gael Clichy (France), Robert Pires (France), Patrick Vieira (France), Edu (Brazil), Jose-Antonio Reyes (Spain), Dennis Bergkamp (Netherlands), Thierry Henry (France). Subs: Manuel Almunia (Spain), Philippe Senderos (Switzerland), Cesc Fabregas (Spain), Mathieu Flamini (France), Robin Van Persie (Netherlands). The Gunners won the match 5-1.
The most hat-tricks scored in an English Premier League career is 11 by Alan Shearer playing for Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United 1992-2006.
The most nationalities represented by players to appear in a Premier League match was 22 in Blackburn Rovers' 2-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion on 23 January 2011. The following countries all had at least one player see the pitch during the match: England, France, Scotland and Sweden two apiece, while Austria, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, Congo, Congo DR, Croatia, Czech Republic, Grenada, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, Norway, Paraguay, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, USA and Wales.
The team to be relegated the most times from the English Premier League is Crystal Palace, who have eliminated a total of four times, in 1992/93, 1994/95, 1997/98 and 2004/05. Every year the bottom three clubs (four in 1994/95) in the Premier League move to the next league down for the following season.
The most unanswered goals scored in the English Premier League is 35 by Chelsea FC across eight matches between 17 April 2010 and 11 September 2010. The held six clean sheets in the span.
On May 16, 1999, a total of 23,680 people at the Boleyn Ground, Upton Park blew glycerine bubbles into the air for 1 minute, setting a record for most people simultaneously blowing bubbles prior to West Ham United F.C.'s home Premier League fixture against Middlesbrough F.C.
The best start by a team to a Premiership season is seven wins, by Chelsea FC in the 2005/06 season.
The youngest Premier League referee is Michael Oliver (UK, b. 20 February 1985), who made his debut at 25 years, 182 days in Birmingham City v. Blackburn at St Andrews, Scotland, UK, on 21 August 2010.