London, Aug 7: Manchester United open the new Premier League season at home to Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday looking for signs that they are ready to mount a sustained assault on Chelsea's title.
Last season's equivalent fixture, a 3-0 home win on March 15, proved the belated catalyst for a run of form that ensured Louis van Gaal ended his first season as manager with United back in the Champions League places.
But with some £77 million ($120 million, 110 million euros) having been spent on new players including Memphis Depay, Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger, United have set their sights a little higher.
"(Last season) we could see that we were getting better gradually, but we just needed that consistency in our performances and then, obviously, in results," captain Wayne Rooney told ESPN this week.
"But we could see in each game we were getting better. I feel this season for the first time, rather than the last two seasons, we're ready to challenge again."
Saturday's lunchtime game at Old Trafford will give United's fans a clearer idea of how their team will line up this season, with Rooney expected to lead the line as a lone striker in a 4-3-3 formation.
Tottenham finished fifth last term, six points below fourth-place United, and will hope to make a more convincing case for Champions League qualification despite a relatively quiet transfer window.
Spurs' defence has been bolstered by the arrivals of Toby Alderweireld, Kevin Wimmer and Kieran Trippier, but in attack, Harry Kane is under pressure to repeat the feats of his stunning 31-goal breakthrough season.
Chelsea begin their title defence at home to Swansea City, who will be looking to repeat their sensational opening-day exploits from last season, when they won 2-1 against United at Old Trafford.
The champions have spluttered in pre-season, failing to win any of their five games and losing 1-0 to Arsenal in the Community Shield, and could be without last season's top scorer Diego Costa due to a hamstring injury.
Chelsea finished eight points above second-place Manchester City, the outgoing champions, in May, but manager Jose Mourinho believes this season's title race will be a much tighter affair. AFP