It's back. After a close season which seemed to stretch longer than Manchester City's budget, the Premier League returns to occupy our minds. Goodbye life. See you next May.
Of course, we are excited. Why wouldn't we be with so much drama awaiting? Predictability is the curse of existence and even though we already know the three teams who will be contesting the title, the three teams who will go down and three teams who will contest the fascinating race for fourth place, there will be incidents over the forthcoming 10 months which will shake our being to its very core.
Yet some of us are blighted. These damn powers of prescience ruin all the fun. While you lot sit there open-mouthed as Michael Owen scores in the 15th minute of injury time to beat Liverpool 5-4, the poor fortune-tellers among us will shrug and yawn. We knew that was going to happen when United were 4-0 down.
Even this far out we soothsayers can see what will unfold and for anyone who is interested here are the three most incredible things to happen in the 2011-2012 season. I will share this with you on one proviso: you will have to pretend to be surprised when they happen.
1. Joey Barton moves to Old Trafford
In the most shocking raid in Manchester since Emily Bishop's husband was shot, Wesley Sneijder joins City. "It's disgusting that football is now all about money," says multi-millionaire Sir Alex Ferguson. So where does he look for another midfielder? On Twitter, that's where.
While trawling on the social network Fergie happens upon the wisdom of Joey Barton. "I think therefore I am," tweets Barton as he continues to delve ever deeper in philosophy. "And I think Mike Ashley can go f$%$ himself." That's the last straw for the Newcastle chairman. "Barton can go for free," he declares. "In fact I'd pay a club to take him." Man City offer £35m.
But no, Fergie wins this one. Barton is off to Old Trafford and although his time begins in controversy – he punches Wayne Rooney for calling Descartes " a bit boring" – within a few games his quality is confirmed. And as the season progresses, so, too, does Barton. Fabio Capello has no choice but to pick him for England. "I only ignored him because he seemed more unpopular than me," explains the Italian. Soon it's a case of "Wesley who?" in Manchester. Yes, the Wesley snipes come thick and fast.
Barton wins Footballer of the Year and takes the United and England armband. "He's the new Eric Cantona," says Fergie. Barton banned for eight months for karate-kicking a fan.
2. Roman Abramovich sells Chelsea to Qatar
What a terrible start to the reign of Luis Andre de Pina Cabral e Villas-Boas (Jose for short). Fernando Torres continues to do his alarmingly realistic impression of Jason Lee, while at White Hart Lane Didier Drogba sets a new goal-scoring record in his first two months for Tottenham.
"Everyone was right, they couldn't play together," says Villas-Boas, explaining the move. "Didier insisted on kicking the ball into the net rather than pass to Fernando."
Within a month, Chelsea are way down in third place and Abramovich is restless. "Man City have ruined this league with all their money," moans Abramovich. "The soul's gone out of football."
The Qatari Government, who have ditched Paris St-Germain after discovering the French League is rubbish, makes Abramovich an offer he can't refuse. The new owners appoint Sepp Blatter as chairman of Chelsea. "Qatar did not buy the World Cup," says the Fifa president, denying a conflict of interests. "They just hired it for a year."
Abu Dhabi warns its Gulf neighbour it will not be belittled in the transfer market. Chelsea buy Carlos Tevez from Internazionale for £120m. City buy Drogba for £130m. Chelsea buy Francis Lee for £140m. City buy Norman Hunter for £150m. Chelsea buy Oasis for £160m. City buy Chaz and Dave for £170m. In other news, Arsenal buy some bloke from France nobody's heard of for £57.80.
3. Manchester City win the League
Despite Barton's heroics at United and Chelsea's newly discovered wealth, City win their first League title in 44 years.
The captain, Mario Balotelli, walks up to collect the trophy but on his way strips off, dons a chicken outfit and runs around the pitch singing "Snooker Loopy". "Sanest thing he's done all season," says Roberto Mancini.
Fergie is devastated and complains to the EnvironmentAgency about his "noisy neighbours". "Man City winning the League?" he says, incredulously. "You'll be telling me Abu Dhabi will host a World Cup next." Man City buy Blatter for £200m. "We got him cheap," says a spokesman. Abu Dhabi awarded 2026 World Cup.
Barcelona 6 Manchester United 1 (Messi, og 90). And so the Spanish giants reclaim the Champions League. "I get this feeling they may be a wee bit better than us," says Fergie.
The Scot joins Chelsea, who pay United £210m for his services, but then rejoins United when they pay Chelsea £220m for his services. United have been bought by Bahrain. Three Premier League teams go into administration. But who cares? The oil is still flowing.Reuse content