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The former England defender and Middlesbrough boss tips the reigning champions to win the title again and believes Norwich City could spring a few surprises this season

EXCLUSIVE
By Rob Stewart

Gareth Southgate is backing Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini to give Manchester United counterpart Sir Alex Ferguson a run for his money in the Premier League title race.

Southgate knows what it takes to prosper in the Barclays Premier League as a player and as a manager and with that in mind he is tipping United to safeguard their title when the new season starts despite the rising threat of their local rivals.

In a distinguished playing career, the former England international pitted his wits against the finest strikers in the country as a centre-half for Crystal Palace, Aston Villa and Middlesbrough before managing Boro himself.

Ahead of the new season, Goal.com put Southgate on the spot and asked for his predictions for the new season as he prepared to take over the official Barclays Football Twitter profile on Saturday.

PREMIER LEAGUE CHAMPIONS


Manchester United

So much could still depend on last-minute transfers because that could really turn things on its head but as things stand United look like securing their 20th domestic title. They have had the best summer in the transfer market and are already champions and the only question mark will be over the goalkeeper, David de Gea, and how he adapts to life in England. Edwin van der Sar was such an influence and performed brilliantly last season so that is the one unknown but they will still be the team to beat.

PLAYER OF THE SEASON


Luis Suarez (Liverpool)

Next season’s top performer might not even be here yet and it could well prove to someone who arrives late such as Wesley Sneijder. But Luis Suarez had a brilliant finish to last season following his move from Ajax and he had a fantastic Copa America with Uruguay and this could be a huge season for Liverpool and for him.

TOP GOALSCORER


Javier Hernandez (Manchester United)

Whether Sir Alex Ferguson plays him right from the start remains to be seen but once he gets in the thick of things I think he will excel. From what I saw of him last season, he takes up terrific positions and has an amazing instinct for scoring goals. Plus he will be in a team that is creating loads of chances.

YOUNG PLAYER OF THE YEAR


Phil Jones (Manchester United) or Ross Barkley (Everton)

Phil Jones was outstanding in the summer in the Under-21 European Championships and he will prove to be a fantastic player. I spoke to Sam Allardyce when he was at Blackburn about him and he raved about him. Whether he plays in midfield or at centre-back for United I think he will adapt to anything. Being at Old Trafford will take him onto another level.

The Everton midfielder, Ross Barkley, is another strong candidate. He has just come back after being out for a year or so with a broken leg and it will be interesting to see if he can break into Everton’s first team and how he does in the Premier League. He was in the Under-17 team with Chelsea’s Josh McEachran that won the European Championship and could really make his mark under David Moyes.

SURPRISE PACKAGE


Norwich City

It will be fascinating to see how Norwich get on. Paul Lambert seems to have had an excellent grounding both as a player and a coach and they have brought plenty of new players in rather than sticking with the squad that got them promoted. Sometimes the momentum of a new team can take you forward and sometimes the difficulties of the Premier League can be too much for a newly-promoted side, but Norwich will be a club with a good feel about it after two promotions.

MANAGER OF THE SEASON


Sir Alex Ferguson (Manchester United)

If Arsenal end up doing anything from where they are at the moment it will be Arsene Wenger and it will be really interesting to see how they do. There is an outside chance that it could be Roberto Mancini because last year they set the foundations to have an assault on the title and I think City will be very competitive. If he survives the season that will have meant City have been very successful and he will be a leading contender. But I can’t see his team beating United to the title so I would have to go for Sir Alex.

RELEGATION CANDIDATES


Swansea, Queens Park Rangers, Blackburn or Wigan

History tells us that the clubs with the lowest budgets in terms of ther wage bills have a really tall order to stay in the division so that will make life extremely difficult for Swansea and QPR but both have very good managers who might be able to produce something different. Blackburn will be in that bottom area as will Wigan. All of them have managers with brighter futures but in the circumstances it will be difficult for those clubs.

Gareth Southgate is taking over the official Barclays Football Twitter profile on Saturday (@barclaysfooty) to celebrate the start of the Barclays Premier League season. He will be talking to fans live, giving an ex-professional player's point of view on the matches that kick-off the top-flight competition. 

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