EXCLUSIVE - Rio Ferdinand has picked his Top Four for the coming season
Rio Ferdinand believes this season’s Premier League title race will be a straight fight between old foes Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola, as the old foes prepare to renew their enduring and bitter rivalry after taking over at Manchester’s two big clubs this summer.
In an exclusive interview with Independent.ie, six-time Premier League winner Ferdinand has been impressed by the impact Mourinho has made in his first few weeks as Manchester United manager, with his high profile signings of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba transforming the atmosphere around the club ahead of their first game of the season against Bournemouth on Sunday.
While Ferdinand admits this new Premier League season is the toughest to predict for many years, he is convinced the Mourinho factor will transform United from a team that failed to seal a top four finish into champions for the first time since 2013.
“The presence of Mourinho and Guardiola at the two Manchester clubs is the main reason why I see United and City as the teams to beat in the Premier League this season,” BT Sport pundit Ferdinand told us.
“These two guys are the ultimate winners in the game over the last decade and they will not come here asking for time to get it right. They will say they want to win the Premier League title in their first season and that is what you expect from winners.
“Mourinho has changed the mood around United very quickly. Speaking to the players and the staff, they all like what they are seeing from the new management team and the players will feel a freedom compared to what they have been used to under Louis van Gaal over the last couple of years.
“Confidence, belief and hope is returning for the players and the fans. You can put that down to Jose Mourinho.”
Ferdinand believes Guardiola faces the biggest test of his coaching career after succeeding Manuel Pellegrini at Manchester City, but he is convinced the Spaniard will find a winning formula after a summer of heavy spending was highlighted by his £50m capture of Everton defender John Stones.
“He has had ten years of winning trophies at Barcelona and Bayern Munich and maybe he felt the time was right to take on a big challenge at Manchester City,” continues Ferdinand.
“Guardiola will know that winning here straight away will not be easy, but that may be what he wants at this stage of his career and when you look at his record of success and everything about the guy, he will do well at City.
“He will probably takes a while to used to English football because in this league, there are no easy games and every match is competitive. That will be different from what he has been used to in Spain and Germany.”
Ferdinand went on to suggest Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp and Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino should have an advantage over their title rivals this season as they have been in place at their clubs for some time, as he suggested new Chelsea boss Antonio Conte faces a battle to get the Blues back in first gear.
“Conte will need time to find his feet,” added Ferdinand. “I don’t think he will win the Premier League in his first season because he has a big job on his hands there, but I expect them to be in the mix.
“I think Tottenham can challenge again. They were so impressive for long periods last season and if they can handle the added pressure of playing in the Champions League, I expect them to be in the top four again.
“Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has a little bit of an advantage over the new managers coming into the Premier League because he has been here for the best part of a season, but the biggest concern for him will be keeping Daniel Sturridge fit. It has been a concern for Liverpool over the last couple of seasons and they have to hope his injury problems stay away.”
FERDINAND’S PREMIER LEAGUE TOP 4 PREDICTION
1. Man Utd
2. Man City
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