Early Premier League Power Rankings: Manchester United Primed to Rebound
We're only just into preseason, but that hasn't stopped us from having a stab at some early Premier League power rankings to get an early gauge on our 20 teams.
Which of the big guns looks primed to land the title as it stands, who of the promoted teams look best-stocked and which relegation fighters from last year are resting on their laurels?
Take a look as we assess all the competitors and join in using the comments below if you disagree!
Note: This is not a predicted Premier League 14-15 table finish.
Burnley started their preseason with an 8-0 victory over an Austrian XI, but that's not what's hitting the headlines for the Clarets right now.
Sean Dyche's stocking up of strikers indicates the fears of losing Danny Ings to Southampton, per Adam Crafton of the Daily Mail, are very real. He and Sam Vokes were excellent in chasing promotion but can Marvin Sordell and Lukas Jutkiewicz pick up the slack?
They've added Premier League experience in every area but losing a star man would be a huge blow.
19. West Bromwich Albion
West Bromwich Albion have a fair amount of talent on their roster, but they've had difficulty drawing it all together in recent years.
Brown Ideye is an interesting acquisition at centre-forward whose price has furrowed the brow of many, while the Baggies also look to set to enter the season with Sebastien Pocognoli and Chris Baird at full-back. Liverpool have confirmed Andre Wisdom will be loaned out, but will he be thrown in?
Head coach Alan Irvine was an exceptionally random appointment and he's got a lot of people to prove wrong.
18. Swansea City
Swansea are enduring a very peculiar summer in which they seem to be abandoning their possession-based template and roots.
According to Sky Sports' Jim White, Michel Vorm is set to leave for Tottenham but Gylfi Sigurdsson is inbound. Wilfried Bony is fancied to leave, too, but if he stays he'll be the perfect target for potential £4 million acquisition Jefferson Montero, per BBC Sport.
Gauging the Swans right now is impossible; it's a case of leaving them a little underrated and seeing how the summer pans out. It either gets a bit better or they're in serious trouble.
17. Leicester City
Are Leicester City biding their time, or are they truly heading into the season on a low-key note with trust in their current crop?
They have a sprinkling of Premier League experience in most areas—Kasper Schmeichel, Matthew Upson, Paul Konchesky and David Nugent—and have added five players all on free transfers.
As it stands, the creative burden will fall to Anthony Knockaert and Marc Albrighton.
16. Aston Villa
Aston Villa are tough to gauge, as while their summer signings have been dreadfully underwhelming, they have several players returning from injury to boost their stock dramatically.
Charles N'Zogbia and Jores Okore both made their returns to action after a full season out during a friendly with Mansfield last week but the acquisitions of Kieran Richardson and Philippe Senderos do not inspire confidence.
With Christian Benteke likely to miss the start of the campaign with a torn Achilles, the Villa fans are worried, but the likes of Darren Bent and Alan Hutton have been brought in from the cold to play a part.
15. Queens Park Rangers
Queens Park Rangers' first objective is to avoid making the same mistakes all over again, so keeping it low-key this summer and adding sprinklings of quality is acceptable.
Rio Ferdinand is a good start despite his massive wages as the squad is already a big one. Alejandro Faurlin returns from injury, Esteban Granero could stay and left-back Yun Suk-Young is one to watch.
They need some firepower to add to Charlie Austin's goals—especially if Loic Remy is off, as per BBC Sport.
14. Hull City
Hull City began their preseason in enthusiastic fashion on Monday evening, battering North Ferriby 5-0.
With a strong 2013-14 Premier League finish under their belts followed up by an FA Cup runners-up placing at the end of the last campaign, the Tigers are moving into a season where they'll contest on both domestic and European fronts.
The squad is perhaps a little on the small side for the dual role, but Steve Bruce has some good signings so far and Robbie Brady is returning from injury.
13. West Ham United
West Ham have been out and spent money again, so the pressure will be firmly on Sam Allardyce's shoulders to deliver a stronger season this time.
Enner Valencia, Aaron Cresswell and Cheikhou Kouyate have all cost at least £7 million with the former at £12 million; despite the signings the team won't change much, as all three are very much "Big Sam buys."
12. Crystal Palace
Crystal Palace have started the 2014-15 Premier League season in reserved fashion, choosing to wait for their transfer targets and instead trim a large amount of fat off the wage bill in preparation.
It's pretty unlikely they'll achieve the heights and win streaks of last season—the Tony Pulis effect will wear off at some stage—but as long as he's around they're not going to get relegated, either.
11. Stoke City
Mark Hughes is still trying to change the "Stoke City style," but his transfer business so far this summer won't exactly aid his cause.
Steve Sidwell and Phil Bardsley are very much his typical players, while Mame Biram Diouf is more monstrous in the air than on the ground.
Regardless, the Potters appear in no danger at present and are still looking for something of a marquee signing to signal their readiness for the new campaign.
Sunderland are making good, ambitious steps under Gus Poyet and this summer will be the true test of his mettle.
At no stage last season did the Black Cats look 100 percent comfortable in the possession mould the Uruguayan installed and the team looked hastily stitched together.
Now Poyet has time to work with his players and coach them how he wants, and his summer signings—albeit for free transfers—are all good moves. Billy Jones in particular is an astute swoop.
In Carlos Cuellar, Craig Gardner, Phil Bardsley, Andrea Dossena, David Vaughan and Keiren Westwood, they've trimmed a lot of excess wages off the bill.
Calls of Southampton's demise are, at this stage, unwarranted and a little over-zealous.
In no way is losing Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw, probably Dejan Lovren and perhaps Morgan Schneiderlin a good thing, but Ronald Koeman has a plan and he's already replaced the first two on that list.
The Saints will be a season-long test of whether Eredivisie players can truly cut it in the Premier League, as more will likely follow Dusan Tadic and Graziano Pelle to create a near-Eredivisie All-Star XI.
As it stands, Everton are set to enter the season with just one new signing (the returning Gareth Barry) and a strike-force consisting of Arouna Kone and Steven Naismith.
This is why they've dropped in our preseason rankings in comparison to their fifth-placed finish in the table last year, and if you add in the fact they've got Europe to attend to, Roberto Martinez really needs to get a move on.
The good news? Tim Howard's amazing, the full-backs are great and Ross Barkley's still at Goodison Park.
7. Newcastle United
Newcastle United's business so far has been largely fantastic.
Alan Pardew identified strong targets quickly and captured them, raiding his usual Ligue 1 hunting ground but also expanding his horizons to the Eredivisie, too.
Siem de Jong, Daryl Janmaat, Jack Colback and Remy Cabella are great acquisitions, but questions remain over the €10 million signing of Emmanuel Riviere—this one's regarded as great business for Monaco, not the Magpies.
6. Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham Hotspur have a new manager with an exciting project and a squad stacked full of underachieving stars. If Mauricio Pochettino can coax the best out of them they don't need an expensive summer to make a splash.
All eyes will be on incoming signing Ben Davies, per BBC Sport, to fill the left-back void and €30 million Argentine winger Erik Lamela. If the former Roma man finds his feet it won't matter who Spurs have up front—there will be goals.
The odd sale may be necessary and Wilfried Bony would be lovely, but White Hart Lane is fully primed for a rebound season regardless of further business.
Despite sealing second place in the Premier League last season, Liverpool are set to enter the season in a slightly weaker place as it stands.
Emre Can is a very astute buy and adds much-needed hustle to the midfield, but no amount of £20 million players can replace Luis Suarez and the fact is he's gone.
With Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana in town we could see a change in strategy, while Lazar Markovic remains an intriguing prospect who needs training and coaching before he can truly fire.
4. Manchester United
Manchester United have recruited a world-class manager who can handle the job he's in, and that's a big leap forward from where they were this time last season.
Luke Shaw is in, Ander Herrera is in and the murmurs of a big, big signing in the form of Arturo Vidal, via The Express' Alex Harris among others, are growing stronger.
With no European football to worry about this season, Louis van Gaal's men are going to be an absolute force.
Arsenal have been out and aggressively pursued three of their top targets and two have landed. At the top-end of football, that's a decent strike rate.
Alexis Sanchez will add raw pace, power and goals to an already-impressive attack, while Mesut Ozil should enjoy a better second season in the Premier League.
With three FIFA World Cup 2014-winning Germans re-entering the fold, Mathieu Debuchy signing and Arsene Wenger still on the lookout for a strong defensive midfielder, the Gunners are trending up.
2. Manchester City
Once again, Manuel Pellegrini has quietly and quickly addressed the needs of his squad by using the transfer window superbly.
Fernando Reges boosts the central midfield corps, Bacary Sagna gives Pablo Zabaleta a running mate and Willy Caballero provides competition for Joe Hart.
They still need to look at their striking situation given the streaky/injury-prone nature of their players, while a centre-back could be useful given Joleon Lescott's departure and Matija Nastasic's freak ailments.
Jose Mourinho picked his targets prior to the FIFA World Cup 2014 and fired as soon as he could, landing Cesc Fabregas, Filipe Luis and Diego Costa for decent fees.
Add in the fact that the sales of David Luiz, Kevin De Bruyne and Juan Mata this year have all but evened the money spent at Stamford Bridge and you have to admire what Chelsea are putting together.
They've pipped Manchester City for top spot here mostly due to one thing: the strike-force. Where the Blues have Costa, Fernando Torres and could be in the market for another, the Citizens are juggling injuries all over.
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