YES, it's still only July, but believe it or not, the Premier League season resumes in less than two weeks, and the Community Shield is on next Saturday.
So, even though we are still rubbing on the Factor 50 suntan lotion, the business of guessing who will be champions next May has already commenced, not least among the oddsmakers.
I'm not a big fan of betting companies' influence on sports and soccer in particular, but they are not in the business to lose money, so are a good indicator of a side's chances of grabbing the holy grail that is the Premier League title.
Before looking at the bookie odds for the season ahead, it must be noted that much of the early money has gone on Manchester United.
Despite coming off their worst Premier League points total for a season, ever, and despite the lack of any real transfer activity at Old Trafford this summer, and that their talismanic star Cristiano Ronaldo doesn't seem to be on talking terms with the new manager, the majority of the punters' cash in the UK and Ireland appears to be landing on Erik ten Hag's United to win the Premier League crown.
It is generally acknowledged that pre-season games should be ignored, other than what they provide players getting back to speed ahead of the season. But United’s results during their off-season tour of Thailand and Australia seems to have stirred a measure of hope among the Red Devils faithful, which they are backing up with their cash.
During the three-match tour, ten Hag has seen his side score 11 goals, while only conceding twice.
Now, United were expected to deal with both Melbourne Victory and Crystal Palace easily but their 4-0 victory over Liverpool in Bangkok last Tuesday week certainly raised a few eyebrows.
Now the major health warning returns to the simple fact that these were friendlies and they were not playing anything like the Liverpool side that will lineout for the Premier League. Nevertheless, it has generated a definite sense of positivity around United and ten Hag which the United punters have latched upon.
To be fair, even though ten Hag is not experienced at Premier League level, he is not just anyone thrown into the job to fill the seat. He is dynamically determined to make a success of his time at Old Trafford, and during his reign at Ajax won five major trophies and made considerable inroads in the Champions League on a shoestring budget and a bunch of young, exceptionally talented players.
He has also shown that he will not be in awe of the surroundings and players in Manchester, as proven by his new edict to the players about not drinking, not staying out late on club trips, eating the right diet, and maintaining peak fitness. It certainly looks like a back-to-basics approach for ten Hag, and he has already shown the door to anyone who doesn't like it.
This, along with the early results that see the Dutchman still unbeaten ahead of the season, has obviously heartened the fan base with more than a quarter of all bets 'on who will win the Premier League?' going in favour of Man United.
Even with the uncertainty over Ronaldo’s next move, United have become the best-backed side on Betfair to lift the Premier League title, attracting 27% of all bets. And that's more than Man City (11%) and Liverpool (7.4%) combined.
Elsewhere, maybe due to their strong offseason acquisitions in the transfer market, Tottenham Hotspur come in second place in the betting stakes, with 22% of all bets going on the strong-finishing north Londoners of last season.
Man City and, surprisingly, Chelsea are joint third on 11%, followed by Arsenal on 8.7%. And Liverpool, who were just two defeats away from the quadruple, only gets the fourth most number of bets.
The departure of goal-king Sadio Mané and the lack of a signing of a badly-needed midfield playmaker may be affecting punter's confidence in the Reds. But Darwin Núnez's recent four-goal spree in the friendly against RB Leipzig may ease Liverpool's concerns.
Of course, the amount of money going on a team does not wholly dictate how bookies set their odds and unsurprisingly, Man City remain the clear favourites to retain the Premier League title at 4/7.
Jurgen Klopp's men, last season, took City all the way to the wire but are a big 2/1 to win the title outright in 2023.
Again Tottenham are placed strongly in this market and are set as third-favourites by the bookies at 14/1, ahead of last year’s third-placed finishers, Chelsea on 16/1.
It’s at this point where the bookies see Man United coming. And while pre-season results are all well and good, proven competitive form is another thing, and so the Devils are placed on a big 28/1 to claim their 21st title.
The Gunners, despite some progress last season, are still put at distant outsiders for the crown on 66/1.
The big payout is on Bournemouth to win at 2000/1. But they do lead the race for relegation on 4/1 to take the drop back down to the Championship. Followed by fellow new boys Nottingham Forest and Fulham on 10/11 and 6/5 respectively.