The 2012/13 Premier League season is over and, to be honest, it wasn't that great. We were definitely spoiled by the dizzying last-minute climax of the 2011/12 season, but watching Manchester United trudge to a 20th title while the rest of the league floundered and groaned had all the excitement of bingo night at Gareth Barry's house.
Until it became clear that four of the top six clubs in the table (including each of the top three) would have new managers next season, the league was feeling decidedly stale with the same old stories (even Luis Suarez biting an opponent was a rerun from his Eredivisie days) and all of its representatives crashing out of the Champions League. But the good news is that all of that is over now and next season has the elements necessary to be bananas. Here are some things to look forward to...
Sir Alex Ferguson is retired -- It's always sad when a legend of the game moves on, but change can bring the reinvigorating elements of doubt and uncertainty. After 27 years and 13 Premier League titles, Ferguson's stronghold on the league is suddenly gone and it's up to David Moyes — a man who has only ever won the old Second Division with Preston North End in 2000 — to fill the void at one of the biggest and most successful clubs in the world.
For many Man United fans, Ferguson's reign has been all they know/remember. They've spent years wondering how other clubs could burn through a new set of managers every season or struggle to contend for trophies. Andi Thomas recently summed up their new plight for Football365:
It's not that Ferguson never made any mistakes; it's that when he did, it was okay because Ferguson was there to fix them, and he was able to do so in large part because he was Ferguson. Now they, like every other poor sap in the world, have to spend time worrying that their manager might not be any good, or might be good but unlucky, or might be good and lucky but end up on the wrong side of a power struggle, or might be good and lucky and have the backing of the board but bugger off after two seasons for somewhere sunnier.
Adding to the intrigue is that Ferguson will still be around the club in some capacity as director and ambassador like a phantom of more certain times. If Moyes falters, will Ferguson be summoned back to his full gum-chomping glory? Of course, it's very unlikely that Man United will instantly disappear from contention, but those new feelings of doubt and uncertainty could make even a second straight Man United title far more entertaining.
Jose Mourinho will (probably) return -- One grizzled manager with the fury of a thousand vengeful gods departs and another one (probably) returns, far more grizzled than when he left. When Jose Mourinho was shuffled out of the Premier League in the middle of the 2007 season, he was simply a great manager with a massive ego. Now he's a great manager with a massive ego and a fresh bruise on his record.
Mourinho is used to accomplishing two things: winning trophies and having his players adore him. At Real Madrid this season, he accomplished neither of those things and he's not taking it well. "This has been my worst season because it's the first season in which I have not won an important title," said Mourinho after losing and getting sent off in the Copa del Rey final. What's more fun than Jose Mourinho? Jose Mourinho in a conducive environment with something to prove.
Man City in flux again -- After winning their first top-flight title in 44 years, City became a little complacent. They went from spending ludicrous amounts of money to just massive amounts of money, they sold off Mario Balotelli and their once delightful YouTube channel became as bland as every other YouTube channel in existence. But going winless in the Champions League group stage, finishing a distant second to Man United, and losing the FA Cup final to Wigan (yes, Wigan) prompted them to sack manager and scarf model Roberto Mancini with two matches still to play in the season. Now the possibilities are once again endless. They can bring in manager with a more exciting style of play and resume throwing money out the door like it's covered in anthrax.
Wayne Rooney -- Will he again turn back on a transfer request and try to prove that he can still be one of the best players in the world while supporters again try to reconcile his fits of disloyalty or will he move on and attempt to start fresh somewhere else? Either way, he has a fascinating journey ahead of him and maybe another hair transplant too.
Season two of Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool and Andre Villas-Boas at Spurs -- No matter how you feel about Liverpool, you'll probably agree that the league was more interesting when they were a contender rather than an also-ran floating around the middle of the table. Brendan Rodgers' time at the club started with a preseason documentary that earned him the sticky tag of being football's David Brent and his results didn't prove revolutionary enough to shake it. Liverpool went from finishing eighth the season before to seventh in Rodgers' first campaign with his initial crop of signings proving largely underwhelming.
But midseason acquisitions Daniel Sturridge and Coutinho showed promise and provided a spark that could be a sign of more substantial improvements to come. Rodgers could still turn out to be less David Brent and more Donald Trump — someone lacking self-awareness who spouts cringe-worthy soundbites, but actually built an impressive empire to sit atop.
As for Villas-Boas, he delivered Spurs' best point total ever in the Premier League, but still finished one point shy of a Champions League spot. Retaining Gareth Bale for a little while longer is a major success (perhaps even equivalent to winning a trophy, as Arsene Wenger might say) and if he can convince the club to make a fresh investment while cutting off some of the fat in his squad, further improvement seems almost certain.
Luis Suarez returns from his biting ban -- Two seasons ago it was racial abuse, this season it was biting another human being (again), so what awful thing will Luis Suarez do next season to keep his streak going? Will he play every match with a machete tied to his head? Will he start an identity theft ring that targets his opponents' grandmothers? Will he help North Korea develop nuclear weapons? And will we finally learn what it takes for Liverpool to start believing that his many controversies are ultimately his fault and not purely the product of a massive conspiracy against him? The anticipation is almost too much.
No more QPR moralizing -- They paid way too much money for a group of talented players who didn't seem to care and now they're gone. The weekly pompous handwringing can be aimed at something else now.
Jose Mourinho will (probably) return -- There's a good chance Mourinho and Suarez will bite each other at the same time.