Predicting The Premier League
The new season is almost upon us, but how will it play out? We asked Iain Macintosh, but we rather regret that now.
Louis van Gaal inspires Manchester United to opening day victory over Swansea by threatening to make Tom Cleverley run a marathon for every misplaced pass.
Brendan Rodgers calls a team meeting for Liverpool and ceremonially marks down the name of the player who he believes will let him down this season. Unfortunately, he gives the name away when he is seen mouthing the syllables, "Mig. No. Lay," as he writes.
Buoyant after a successful summer in the transfer market, Jose Mourinho describes his new-look Chelsea: "Not little horses. Not big horses, either. We are the horses with the bodies of men. And with the bows and the arrows. You know ... like in Harry Potter? Centaurs! That's the one. We are centaurs. Awesome."
Arsenal build on a bright start with an impressive 3-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur, and the Gunners lead the way in the Premier League. "This is the year," coughs Jack Wilshere. "This doesn't slip."
Alan Pardew is sacked by Newcastle United when he runs amok, tearing up Sports Direct advertising hoardings and swinging them above his head. Referee Michael Oliver's decision to award Stoke a contentious throw-in is believed to be the cause of the meltdown.
In a wide-ranging interview, Samir Nasri announces that he thinks all cats are idiots. "If they can't deal with that, that's too bad," he sneers. He goes on to describe all dogs as "a bit shifty."
Paul Lambert says he's very hopeful of Aston Villa avoiding the drop, despite starting the season with seven successive defeats. Alongside him, Roy Keane's eyes glaze over, his head filled with a vision of skeleton warriors cleansing a corrupt city of wrongdoers while lightning streaks across a blood-red sky.
Leading the way in the early stages, Mourinho issues a challenge to Van Gaal. "When I left you," he says, "I was just the learner. Now I am the master."
"Only a master of wibble, Jose," says Van Gaal later.
Van Gaal inspires his players to victory over Crystal Palace by slapping Luke Shaw unconscious.
Liverpool's defeat to Stoke leaves them outside the Champions League places, but Brendan Rodgers is defiant. "I've got the eye of the tiger," he explains. "A fighter. Dancing through fire. Because I am a champion. And you're going to hear me roar." He pauses for breath and then clarifies his point. "Louder than a lion."
PREMIER LEAGUE PREVIEWS
As we count down to kickoff on Aug. 16, ESPN FC previews all 20 teams in this season's competition. Can Burnley, QPR and Leicester stay up? Will the new signings of Alexis Sanchez, Diego Costa and Adam Lallana help usurp Man City's crown? Will Manchester United get back on track under Louis van Gaal?
Mauricio Pochettino claims that his Tottenham side will improve after they're beaten at home by Burnley. Daniel Levy refuses to comment or indeed to leave his office. In the solitary gloom, a single tear rolls down his cheek. Irritably, he wipes it away with a leather glove. "Hold it together, Danny," he whispers. "Hold it together."
Lambert apologises to supporters for a run of six games without a win. Alongside him, Roy Keane stares hard at the floor, trying to block out the screams in his head. "No!" the voices wail. "We can change!" Hours later, a number of concerned journalists wonder why the ominous words, "The time for change has passed. This is the quickening," have been picked up on their Dictaphones.
Arsene Wenger lauds Alexis Sanchez for his blistering hat trick against Manchester City and says it will be a travesty if he misses out on the Player of the Year award. "The mood here has never been better," wheezes Wilshere. "Nothing's going to stop us now."
Paul Lambert is sacked. Roy Keane is offered his job. He stares at Randy Lerner and, for the first time in many months, a smile breaks across his face. It begins.
Sanchez fractures his face and tears his heartstring in a freak collision with a ball boy. He is ruled out for the rest of the season. Arsenal lose 2-0 to Leicester and Wenger blames abnormal solar flares.
Pochettino says there's no reason to panic as his Tottenham side slide to 14th following a defeat to Queens Park Rangers. In the director's box, Levy expresses his feelings through the medium of art, drawing a crude portrait of Van Gaal on the wall with this message written underneath: "Why didst thou desert me?"
Aston Villa are looking for a new defender after it is revealed that Philippe Senderos has run away from home.
Arsenal win just a single game through March and lose their place at the top of the table. Wilshere is ruled out for a month with yellow fingers.
Van Gaal inspires his players to victory over Newcastle by arriving in the dressing room wearing an executioner's outfit.
Pochettino says the team is merely adjusting to a new style of football and claims that Levy has given him his full support. Watching in his office, Levy laughs hysterically and throws the television out the window.
Pochettino is sacked and replaced by David Ginola. Asked why the mercurial Frenchman has been appointed, Levy shrugs and admits he doesn't know, but it just feels right.
West Bromwich Albion are relegated. Manager Alan Irvine describes it as a complete surprise. "We all thought we'd be down by February," he says.
Chelsea are Premier League champions for the first time in five years. At the end of the game, Mourinho swipes the crown from the trophy and puts it on his head. In the press conference afterward, he refuses to answer any question that isn't prefixed with the words, "Your imperial majesty." Later that night, he has Fernando Torres executed simply because he can.
Liverpool finish fifth, but Rodgers claims that he's confident it's just a small backward step before a huge leap forward in 2015. In an attempt to illustrate his point, he asks the assembled journalists if any of them have a guitar...
Aston Villa avoid the drop by a single point after a narrow last-day victory over Burnley. As the players celebrate on the pitch, manager Keane watches silently from the mouth of the tunnel, bows his head and turns his back on them. His work here is complete. But somewhere, there is another city that must be saved from itself. Evil has no offseason. Righteousness has no summer break. Even in a non-World Cup year. Keane sighs, drops a smoke bomb and disappears into the mist.
Iain Macintosh covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @IainMacintosh.