It’s shaping up to be an exciting finish to the Premier League season. At the bottom five teams are looking to avoid dropping into the Championship whilst at the top three teams are still in with a shout of claiming the Premier League crown, although it looks most likely as if either Manchester United or Chelsea will claim it.
The two meet at Old Trafford this weekend in a match which will surely define whether the title remains in London or heads back to Old Trafford for a record breaking 19th time. After the weekend’s results Chelsea sit three points behind 1st placed United with a slightly better goal difference and a Blues victory will see the two level on points with two games to go, if United win they’ll pull 6 points clear and be expected to finish 1st.
This tight race for the title has been an intriguing one with no one team seemingly wanting to win it, but Chelsea have surged back into contention since the New Year after being 15 points off the pace at one point. This week the top ten looks back at some of the most closely fought races for the top crown in England where little has separated those winning the title and the chasing pack.
10: Liverpool edge out plucky QPR – 1976
Queens Park Rangers came within a whisker of winning the First Division in the 1975/76 season but in the end had to settle for 2nd place behind Liverpool. Rangers, boasting the likes of Stan Bowles and Gerry Francis in their side, were 1st after their final game of the season, a 2-0 defeat of Leeds on the 24th of April. However they had to suffer a few weeks wait to see whether they’d stay there or not as Liverpool’s last match was on May 4th against already relegated Wolverhampton Wanderers. The Reds held their nerve to win 3-1 and clinch the title by one point.
9: Arsenal complete Part 1 of the Double – 1971
The early 1970’s were a time when Arsenal and Leeds United were among the dominant forces in English football, striking up a competitive rivalry. Going into the final day of the 1970/71 season Arsenal’s fate was in their hands. If they beat or drew 0-0 with arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane they’d be champions, regardless of what Leeds did. A late Ray Kennedy header secured the points for Arsenal and the title too and a week later they defeated Liverpool 2-1 in the FA Cup Final to complete a historic double.
8: Manchester United overhaul Keegan’s entertainers – 1996
The 1995/96 title race is one of the most famous in the history of the Premier League. Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle United were at one stage 12 points clear of United after they’d been beaten 4-1 at Tottenham Hotspur in January. As United ebbed away at Newcastle’s lead and eventually overtook them with a few games to go, Keegan embarked on his memorable ‘I will love it if we beat them’ rant live on Sky Sports following a 1-0 win at Leeds United. The Magpies still had hope going into the final day of the season but United needed a draw at least away to Middlesbrough to win their third title in four years. They won 3-0 to take the title and Newcastle, who ended four points behind, were left to wonder what might have been.
7: Leeds United see off the Red Devils – 1992
The last season before the formation of the Premier League saw the title race go down to the wire. Howard Wilkinson’s Leeds United kept Manchester United waiting longer for a league crown as they finished four points clear of their rivals from across the Pennines. Both sides showed nerves in the final few weeks of the season but Leeds won a tough Yorkshire derby away to Sheffield United 3-2 in their penultimate game of the season and later that day United were at Anfield facing Liverpool. In front of the live TV cameras Sir Alex Ferguson’s men lost 2-0 and the title was on its way to Elland Road.
6: Liverpool pip Merseyside rivals to the Championship – 1986
Kenny Dalglish was appointed as Liverpool player-manager ahead of the 1985/86 season but got off to a slow start in the League, nine points off 1st with ten games gone. City rivals Everton won the league in 1985 and would do so in 1987 but they missed out on a hat-trick of titles in 1986 as the red half of Merseyside celebrated instead. The Toffees thrashed Southampton 6-1 on the final day of the season to leave Liverpool needing a point away to Chelsea to secure top spot. A well-taken goal from Dalglish gave them a 1-0 win and the title. They would go on to defeat Everton in the FA Cup Final weeks later to complete the double.
5: Brian Clough guides Derby County to league glory – 1972
Having taken Derby into the top flight in 1969, Brian Clough established the Rams in the First Division and by the 1971/72 campaign they were real challengers for the league crown. A year after Arsenal’s exciting championship win the title would be settled in tight circumstances as the top four were separated by just one point. Derby completed their fixtures with a win over Liverpool to go top on 58 points. As Clough and his team jetted off on their summer holidays, Leeds knew a win in their final game away to Wolves would see them finish top but they lost 2-1 at Molineux and had to settle for 2nd spot on 57 points, finishing above 3rd placed Liverpool and 4th placed Manchester City on goal difference.
4: Chelsea end Manchester United dominance – 2010
The 2009/10 season, much like this campaign, saw Chelsea and Manchester United battling for the title. United were going for an unprecedented 4th in a row whilst Chelsea, with Carlo Ancelotti in his first season as manager, were hoping to win the Premier League for the first time since 2006. On April 3rd the two met at Old Trafford with United one point ahead of the Blues going into the match. Joe Cole put Chelsea in front with a delicate flick after 20 minutes and Didier Drogba made it 2-0 Chelsea with 11 minutes to go. Federico Macheda pulled a goal back two minutes later but nervously Chelsea held on to replace United at the summit of the table, a point ahead. That’s how it remained until the final day as Chelsea’s 8-0 demolition of Wigan saw them over the line by 1 point despite United beating Stoke 4-0.
3: Manchester United begin the quest for the treble – 1999
The 1998/99 season has gone down as one of the greatest in manchester United history as they clinched not only the League but the FA Cup and Champions League too. Before they could set their sights on the FA and European trophies though they had the final day of the Premier League season to play out. They’d tussled with defending champions Arsenal throughout the campaign but edged in front with a game to go. Arsenal won 1-0 over Aston Villa to give themselves hope, especially as United fell a goal behind to Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford. Amidst a nervous atmosphere David Beckham equalised before half time and Andy Cole’s instinctive lobbed effort put United 2-1 ahead. They held on to win the Premier League and would go on to add the FA Cup and Champions League in the following weeks.
2: Blackburn Rovers finish top…just – 1995
Having won three league titles with Liverpool before leaving the club in 1991, Kenny Dalglish guided Blackburn into the top flight in 1992 and aided by Sir Jack Walker’s millions, made them a force in the early years of the Premier League. Going into the final day of the 1994/95 season, Rovers were 1st, two points clear of Manchester United who’d won the league the past two campaigns. Dalglish’s men knew a win at Anfield would see them win the title while Manchester United needed a win away to West Ham to stand a chance of making it three in a row. Blackburn took the lead in the first half through Alan Shearer and West Ham went in front against United with a Michael Hughes volley. However in the second half United pegged West Ham back through Brian McClair and at Anfield, John Barnes equalised for Liverpool. At Upton Park United threw everything at the Hammers as in stoppage time Jamie Redknapp’s thunderbolt of a free-kick put Liverpool 2-1 up and left Blackburn fans sweating. West Ham held out to frustrate United and as news filtered through at Anfield both sets of supporters celebrated – Dalglish and Blackburn were Champions by one point.
1: “It’s up for grabs now!” – 1989
The title race of the 1988/89 season did not just go down to the last match of the season but the last kick of the season. George Graham’s 2nd placed Arsenal travelled to top of the table Liverpool needing to win by two clear goals to deny Liverpool their seventh title of the decade. Alan Smith put the Gunners ahead in the second half but with the clock ticking away and the match entering injury time it seemed as if Kenny Dalglish’s side would win the league. Arsenal had one final say as in the 92nd minute Michael Thomas broke through midfield and poked the ball past Bruce Grobbelaar to make it 2-0 as commentator Brian Moore famously exclaimed “it’s up for grabs now!” Level on points and goal difference, Arsenal snatched the title on goals scored as Anfield was left stunned.