Paul Parker

Fergie paying lip service to some rivals

Paul Parker

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Alex Ferguson has claimed today that he can see any of last season's top six winning the Premier League next season, but I would have to disagree.

I think he was paying a certain amount of lip service to some of the other top managers in the league whom he has respect for, such as Kenny Dalglish and Harry Redknapp. Realistically, I cannot see Liverpool or Spurs being involved come the business end of next season.

Liverpool have already made some significant recruitments this summer - and they could soon make another in the form of Stewart Downing - but it may take a while for Kenny's new-look team to gel. The Reds finished last season very strongly - after Dalglish took over, only Chelsea accrued more points across the remainder of the campaign - but finding the best way to accommodate Downing, Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson may take some time. Their main objective should be regaining their status as a Champions League club, something which I expect them to do, especially considering they do not have the distraction of European football next season.

Tottenham have surprised me by their inactivity in the transfer window thus far. It's not like Harry to be stalling in an open market. Dropping out of the top four showed how they need to keep spending just to keep up with the teams around them, as Liverpool have done. If they do end up losing Luka Modric to Chelsea, they will have to work even harder to maintain their position, let alone make inroads back into a Champions League berth.

Arsenal, like their neighbours Spurs, seem to be so preoccupied with keeping their stars that the major overhaul which they appear in desperate need of looks like it may not happen yet again. Arsene Wenger remains convinced that the addition of Gervinho and the return to fitness of Thomas Vermaelen will be enough to make the Gunners title challengers again next season, but he is probably the only one.

So that leaves Manchester City and Chelsea as the only two out of Ferguson's so-called pack of six who I can really see challenging United for the title.

Ferguson also remarked upon how City have superior buying power to the rest of the league these days. While that may be true in principle, at the time of writing United have spent around £50 million on three signings while City have spent about a quarter of that on two defenders. I, like everyone else, expect both City and Chelsea to spend a lot more before we reach September, but for the time being it is disingenuous to bemoan the financial clout of a team you have comfortably outspent.

I can see the six aforementioned clubs pulling away from the rest of the division, and then splitting again into two groups of three.

- - -

It did not come as much of a surprise to anyone, but Patrick Vieira announcing his retirement certainly registered with followers of the game everywhere.

During his pomp at Arsenal he was truly magnificent, a strong presence in the centre of midfield who could also play football and score goals. Thierry Henry rightly held the status as the club's outstanding player, but Vieira was every bit as crucial to the Gunners' best days under Wenger.

Vieira left and went on to win the title in each of his five years in Italy, but problems with fitness and form affected much of his time at Inter - he only appeared in about a third of Inter's league games during his four years at that club. While a great player, to my mind he never again reached the heights he did for Arsenal.

Still, it was great for him to come back to England and end his career on a high, helping Manchester City finally win a trophy after so long. Players like him don't come along too often, and we were lucky to have both him and Roy Keane playing at the same time.

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