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Tuesday, 13 August, 2002, 11:32 GMT 12:32 UK
It's Man Utd for me
James Beattie will be writing exclusively for BBC Sport Online this season
Southampton striker James Beattie will be writing a regular column for BBC Sport Online this season. He starts by predicting how the Premiership will shape up.

The clock is counting down to what I reckon is the greatest league in the world and I can't wait for it to begin.

We all had our appetites whetted by the World Cup and what England did in it, and the fact that so many stars of the World Cup will be playing over here makes the season even more exciting.

I don't think there is a better league in the world than the Premiership.


If there was one piece of the Man United jigsaw missing, I think they have found it by signing Rio Ferdinand

Italy's Serie A used to be the most glamorous, but I think it has been overtaken by the English Premiership and La Liga in Spain.

Spain has a greater share of world stars but, in terms of excitement, the Premiership is the best.

Everyone has made their predictions for the coming season, so you may as well have mine!

I think Manchester United will win the Premiership. Finishing last season without a trophy will have hurt them and, while the ability of their players is in no doubt, Sir Alex will make sure they are motivated this season.

If there was one piece of the jigsaw missing, I think they have found it by signing Rio Ferdinand.

I don't think they ever really replaced Jaap Stam as an imposing central defender last season, and Rio gives them that authority.

It will certainly be a tough job playing against United's defence!

Arsene Wenger has bought astutely this summer
Arsenal's Arsene Wenger has bought astutely

Arsenal are a quality side and you have to look at the final league table to remind yourself how comfortably they won the title last season.

They have brought in three players for less than Manchester United paid for Rio, which shows how astute Arsene Wenger has been in the transfer market.

Liverpool have spent a lot of money and brought in some good players and now have a deep enough squad to sustain a challenge.

Their success or failure could hinge a lot on Steven Gerrard's fitness. He is their key player and I think England really missed him during the World Cup.

If he can stay healthy throughout the season, Liverpool will be a much stronger team for it.

Newcastle and Leeds will not be far behind, but I don't think you need look outside the trio of Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool for the champions and their nearest challengers.

Of course, Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Newcastle have the distraction of the Champions League.


Man City are back where they deserve to be - they are a big club in every sense

It is not a bad distraction to have but it will provide a test of how deep their squads are when it comes to winning the Premiership.

Further down the table, life is going to be tough, not least for the clubs who have come up.

Birmingham City and West Brom have spent money but, when you come up from Division One, you have to do that merely to close the gap.

Manchester City are back where they deserve to be. They are a big club in every sense of the word.

Although I don't think they will challenge for the title, they will be more than happy if they can win one of the derbies and be top dogs in Manchester for a while.

Like it or not, it is increasingly becoming the case that, to be successful in the Premiership, you have to spend big.

Having said that, spending big does not necessarily guarantee you success.

At Southampton we are not among the Premiership's huge spenders, but we have managed to remain a top-flight team for 25 years now.

Long may that run continue.

Southampton striker James Beattie writes for BBC Sport Online


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