Intended position of guardian writers 6th (NB: this is not necessarily Jamie Jackson’s prediction but the average of our editors’ predictions)
Ranking last season 6th
Odds of winning the league (via Oddschecker) 25-1
In the old days – well, the start of last season when Manchester United had finished second the season before and were bolstered by the signings of Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane and Cristiano Ronaldo – to charge a fourth-place finish as acceptable would have been, uh, unacceptable. Under Ole Gunnar Solskjær, winning a 21st crown was the ambition. Now, after the worst of campaigns which ended with the side in sixth place, 35 points behind Manchester City and a third manager in less than a year in place in Erik ten Hag, if the Dutchman’s side placed fourth, it would be a small miracle.
Why it could happen: The 52-year-old has signed dynamic 22-year-old left-back Tyrell Malacia, Christian Eriksen on a free (the silky playmaker is perhaps the window’s best value) as well as Lisandro Martínez, a fiery defender, from Ajax. If – a big – Frenkie de Jong follows from Barcelona, Ten Hag will have a full quartet of his targets: good reason to be optimistic.
Why it wouldn’t: Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal (all of whom finished above United) have strengthened their ranks. Moreover, Ten Hag has three Eredivisie titles and a Champions League semi-final with Ajax on his CV but is unknown in the Premier League.
He is also hampered by the early start to the season due to the Winter World Cup, which means less time – five weeks – to implement his style of passing and constant, rapid movement. Hearing Ten Hag explain to a group during training at Bangkok’s Rajamangala Stadium earlier this month that football “is triangles, always the same principles” was a bit alarming: elite footballers should already be familiar with this Fundamental principle.