SO with barely time to draw breath after the highs and lows of the World Cup the English Premier League season stands centre circle waiting for the first whistle of a new campaign. There's been hardly a dull moment since Manchester United carted off the FA Cup in May to clinch that rarity in the English game - a League and Cup double. USA 94 took care of a large chunk of the close season and a hyperactive English transfer market has tided us over the intervening few weeks since Dunga hoisted the World Cup for Brazil. Of the wild shenanigans in the transfer dealings, of Spurs and Klinsmann, more later. For now, the overweening thought on all fans' minds as their teams limber up for season 1994-95 must be: ''Who can stop the men from Old Trafford?'' Today United face Blackburn Rovers in the Charity Shield at Wembley, a clash with more than the usual ceremonial significance, pairing as it does the League champions with the runners up from last season. United's League and Cup double success ensured Rovers' place in the Wembley sunshine instead of the traditional League champs v Cup winners showdown. After their well-documented 26 years in the wilderness without a League title United have finished first in the past two years, becoming in the process the undisputedly dominant side in the English game. Last term, in the year of Sir Matt Busby's death, the team reached heights of excellence which drew favourable comparisons with the legendary Babes and the Law-Charlton-Best axis of the '60s and early '70s. Now the names are different - today's holy trinity is Giggs-Cantona-Kanchelskis - but the footballing philosophy remains the same. It's a cavalier attacking flair both at home and away - attack as the best means of defence. Inevitably, thoughts of a dynasty spring to mind. Like that other mighty red machine of recent times - Liverpool 1975-1990 - United stand out as the team for everyone else to aspire to. Ryan Giggs is a precocious talent, still developing. Mark Hughes is enjoying a rich vein of form. Paul Ince is an inspirational driving force. Andrei Kanchelskis has claims to being the fastest winger in the land. But, in a team full of personalities and household names, one in particular could hold the key to United's continued success . . or the seeds of their downfall. Ever since he crossed the Pennines from Leeds in that sensational transfer deal in November 1992 Eric Cantona has added an extra dimension of imagination and experimentation which has rubbed off on his United colleagues. Yet Cantona has a serious temperament problem and a disciplinary record which sees him already sitting out three early season matches because of a red-card offence in a friendly at Ibrox. With Cantona there's always that nagging doubt - the thought that he may not be around come the end of the season. But even if the maverick Frenchman knuckles down to the task of winning his fourth consecutive championship medal there are still a couple of other potential glitches for United. Bryan Robson is no longer with the club and his influence in the dressing room and on the training pitch was inestimable. That leaves a big gap. And then there's Europe. There will be no embarrassing exits this time for United as they're seeded directly into the Champions League. That means a guaranteed eight-game round robin minimum, which in turn means loads of lolly (GBP100,000 per point earned). But could it also mean a bridge too far, one too many distractions from the domestic campaign? If United want to mount a serious Euro challenge then they will need to supplement their ranks with more English players. Their present multi-national line-up won't pass muster under UEFA's three-foreigners rule. Yet, strangely, Alex Ferguson has been mostly absent from the summer jamboree of transfers. With the exception of Blackburn right back David May, he hasn't made any notable signings although he did mount a failed bid to snag Norwich's highly rated striker Chris Sutton. Perhaps Ferguson may stun us all with a late spending spree, but it's more likely that he is planning to blood more of the club's youth and reserve team players. Other teams have not been so backward in coming forward with their chequebooks flapping. Take a bow Tottenham who, in a brilliant PR move, brought home two of the World Cup's most exciting stars. Whatever Romanian midfielder Ilie Dumitrescu and German frontrunner Jurgen Klinsmann achieve on the park in the coming nine months they have already proved worth their weight in gold to Ossie Ardiles and Alan Sugar by giving Spurs' season ticket sales a boost and helping sweeten the blow of the FA's six-point penalty and FA Cup ban. The novelty value will be high in the first phase of matches but, sadly for the Spurs faithful, a porous defence makes it hard to see The Glory Days returning soon. And this time they won't have even the solace of a good Cup run to console them on those cold winter afternoons. Apart from Spurs' two big signings a host of other World Cup performers are arriving in England. The list includes: Holland's Bryan Roy at Nottingham Forest; Romanian Dan Petrescu at Sheffield Wednesday; Sweden's Stefan Schwarz at Arsenal; Belgium's Philippe Albert and Swiss Marc Hottiger at Newcastle; and Cobi Jones of the US at Coventry. Meanwhile, Liverpool are negotiating with Sweden's striker Klas Ingesson. And Ardiles has been hinting at more surprises at White Hart Lane. Apart from this stream of overseas players, the World Cup will have one other immediate effect on the English season. That is the implementation of the FIFA rule changes which led to more open play in most matches in the US - the clampdown on tackles from behind and the loosening of the offside law. While that can only be good news for teams like United and Newcastle, who favour skill and the attacking game, it's less good for traditional spoilers like Arsenal. So the title is an open race with everyone on the starting line together. Except United have a rocket pack on their backs and everyone else is wearing lead boots. To find United's most likely challengers it is a case of ''round up the usual suspects''. Two teams who have been on a steady upward curve in the past two years - Newcastle and Blackburn - will find themselves under pressure to deliver the goods this time. Blackburn gave United a good run-in before losing their nerve at the death last season. But Rovers' Santa Claus, Jack Walker, hasn't been spending bags of his money just for the fun of it. They won the bidding war over Sutton, paying an outlandish GBP5 million for the Norwich man who is, strictly speaking, still unproven. But then they said that about Alan Shearer, too, and he answered the doubters in trumps. Shearer is already ruled out of today's Wembley showdown with food poisoning and will probably miss the early weeks of league action. When he does return, and assuming a clean bill of health for the rest of the season, then a Sutton-Shearer double act could propel Kenny Dalglish's side on another strong campaign. Newcastle came third last season after two years of astute work in the marketplace by manager Kevin Keegan. Now Keegan has pulled off a coup by grabbing Albert from Anderlecht and right back Hottiger from Sion. Albert will line up alongside Darren Peacock in a formidable central defensive pairing. The frontline of Cole and Beardsley needs no improving as it helped the Magpies to the top of the goal charts with 82 last year - making them the only side to outscore the champions. Expect more of the same. Arsenal, for all their dullness and lack of adventure, do get the job done. Five domestic trophies and last season's Cup Winners' Cup triumph are not a bad haul in George Graham's tenure since 1986. The Schwarz signing does seem a little out of character in that this is a midfielder who can shoot (take note John Jensen). But they, like United, have been quiet in the transfer stakes. Unlike United, however, they will suffer more from the new FIFA rulings especially the looser interpretations of offside - so long a mainstay of Arsenal strategies. Liverpool have been forever rebuilding since Dalglish left. The Graeme Souness regime is now looked on as the lost years and Roy Evans' biggest task must be to restore morale. But pre-season ructions involving Mark Wright and Julian Dicks hardly augur well. Nor does Don Hutchison's shameful tabloid undoing. But there is the ever-burgeoning promise of Jamie Redknapp, Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler, and if Ian Rush and John Barnes can manage a last hurrah they could be in the UEFA Cup reckoning. Leeds have suffered untold agonies since mysteriously releasing Cantona. Season 1992-93 saw them become the first reigning champions to go a whole campaign without an away win. Last year promised much at mid-way but ended up with them far off the pace in fifth place. Brian Deane has never looked the part and David White has yet to fire on all cylinders but the recent acquisition of South Africans Lucas Radebe and Philomen Massinga shows a bit of imagination on the part of Howard Wilkinson. Securing Carlton Palmer's signature for GBP2.8 million, though, looks like a leap of faith by the former Wednesday boss. League Cup success sweetened Aston Villa's 10th-place finish last year as they endured a particularly nondescript Coventry-style League campaign. They have pulled off one of the three most talked about transfers of the close season - John Fashanu from Wimbledon for GBP1.35 million. But perhaps more valuable will be the acquisition of Ghanaian international midfielder Nii Lamptey from Anderlecht. Newly promoted Nottingham Forest did a nice bit of business in snagging Bryan Roy. But it will be almost as interesting to see how well their prolific scorer Stan Collymore fares in the top flight after years scaring defences in the lower divisions. Similarly Crystal Palace's top marksman Chris Armstrong should make an army of new admirers if he maintains his strike rate of recent years. in the Premier League.