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How the title was won

Arsene Wenger (top left), Avram Grant (bottom left), Sir Alex Ferguson (rop right) and Rafael Benitez (bottom right) fought it out for the title

By Andrew McKenzie

One of the most thrilling seasons in the 16-year history of the Premier League ended on Sunday with Manchester United lifting the trophy for the 10th time.

BBC Sport looks at the key moments throughout the campaign that have shaped the destiny of the title.

AUGUST

Back in August the sun was shining, the birds were singing and Manchester United could not buy a win.

The champions started the season with draws at home to Reading and away to Portsmouth.

LEAGUE POSITIONS ON 19 AUGUST
2 CHELSEA Pld 3 Pts 7
7 ARSENAL Pld 2 Pts 4
9 LIVERPOOL Pld 2 Pts 4
16 MAN UTD Pld 3 Pts 2

Goals in August
Fernando Torres - 1 in 3 games
Didier Drogba - 1 in 4
Emmanuel Adebayor - 0 in 1
Cristiano Ronaldo - 0 in 2

But worse was to follow on 19 August when they were beaten away by local rivals Manchester City.

United were without Cristiano Ronaldo, who was suspended following his red card for a headbutt at Pompey, but they still dominated at Eastlands.

However, nothing was going right for Sir Alex Ferguson's men and Geovanni won the game with a shot deflected off Nemanja Vidic.

It was United's worst start to a campaign since the first Premier League season back in 1992-93.

It left them in 16th place, with City leading the table with a 100% record under new coach Sven-Goran Eriksson and their proud owner Thaksin Shinawatra.

The only bright spot for United was that their rivals failed to capitalise, with Jens Lehmann's error contributing to Arsenal's 1-1 draw against Blackburn and Liverpool and Chelsea cancelling each out at Anfield.

But how would United respond to such early setbacks?

And what about the fairytale at City, would Sven and Thaksin live happily ever after?

Results
Blackburn 1-1 Arsenal
Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea
Man City 1-0 Man Utd
19 August as it happened

What they said
"We've got ourselves an uphill fight now. Ten years ago we could have handled it because we were always good in the second half of the season - now we are going to have to be."
Sir Alex Ferguson

What you said
"I don't care who says it's only three games. It could be seven points in two hours, and that's way too much against Chelsea.
RageOfReaper on 606

What the papers said
"Demolition Derby" - Daily Express
"Eriksson the blue hero as City turn United's slide into slump" - The Independent

SEPTEMBER

United's response to the City defeat was to squeeze out four consecutive 1-0 victories.

Meanwhile, Chelsea were having a wobbly patch of their own.

LEAGUE POSITIONS ON 23 SEPTEMBER
1 ARSENAL Pld 6 Pts 16
2 MAN UTD Pld 7 Pts 14
4 LIVERPOOL Pld 6 Pts 12
6 CHELSEA Pld 7 Pts 11

Goals in September
Cristiano Ronaldo - 1 in 3
Emmanuel Adebayor - 6 in 4
Fernando Torres - 2 in 4
Didier Drogba - 0 in 2

Roman Abramovich's reaction to a defeat at Aston Villa and a couple of draws at home was to sack manager Jose Mourinho and replace him with the largely unknown Avram Grant.

Avram who? was the general response.

The Israeli's first task in trying to fill the boots of the Special One was a trip to Old Trafford on 23 September, and he was not helped by the absence of Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba, Michael Ballack and Ricardo Carvalho.

They went down 2-0 but referee Mike Dean attempted to deflect some of the attention off Grant and Abramovich with a controversial display.

Chelsea's fans chanted Mourinho's name but their players produced a battling display, only for Dean to harshly send off Jon Mikel Obi after half an hour and the Blues conceded a goal deep in first-half injury time.

A Louis Saha penalty in the 90th minute secured the three points for United, who were in the middle of an 11-game winnning streak in the league and Europe.

They needed to be in order to keep pace with Arsenal, who were in irresistible form.

A week later and Chelsea were held at home to Fulham to lose further ground on their title rivals.

Result
Man Utd 2-0 Chelsea
23 September as it happened

What they said
"I have only been here three days so I didn't think there are any songs for me yet. Maybe after a couple of years."
Avram Grant

What you said
"The scoreline flattered Man Utd. Thing is, neither Chelsea or Man Utd are looking as impressive as Arsenal."
malcfactor on 606

What the papers said
"Abramovich dream veers towards path of ridicule" - The Times
"We're not special any more" - Daily Mirror

OCTOBER

It would be fair to say that the departure of Mourinho had left a gaping hole at Stamford Bridge, if not English football.

Grant had promised Chelsea fans that what he lacked in charisma and an ability to wind up Sir Alex Ferguson, he would make up with by bringing sexy football to the Bridge.

LEAGUE POSITIONS ON 28 OCTOBER
1 ARSENAL Pld 10 Pts 26
2 MAN UTD Pld 11 Pts 26
4 CHELSEA Pld 11 Pts 21
6 LIVERPOOL Pld 10 Pts 20

Goals in October
Cristiano Ronaldo - 2 in 3
Emmanuel Adebayor - 0 in 3
Fernando Torres - 1 in 2
Didier Drogba - 3 in 2

There had been little sign of it in his first handful of games, with a couple of Mourinho-like wins over Bolton and Middlesbrough.

But they were to explode into life at home to Manchester City by handing out a 6-0 thrashing on 27 October.

Sven-Goran Eriksson's previously in-form side had few answers as they were steamrollered by Grant's men.

The players and the formation differed little from Mourinho's time, but the scoreline surpassed anything the Portuguese coach had managed in his three-and-a-bit years at the Bridge.

At the back the Blues were looking ominous - they had not conceded in the league since the United defeat - and up front Didier Drogba was starting to find his goalscoring touch after a slow start to the season.

On the same day United were also showing they meant business with a 4-1 win over Middlesbrough - the fourth successive game they had scored four goals.

The following day Liverpool and Arsenal shared a 1-1 draw at Anfield, leaving the Gunners still unbeaten but looking over their shoulder as their rivals closed in.

Results
Chelsea 6-0 Man City
Man Utd 4-1 Middlesbrough
27 October as it happened

Liverpool 1-1 Arsenal
28 October as it happened

What they said
"I like to win in style. I've done it all my career and now I want to do it here."
Avram Grant

What you said
"Avram Grant's Chelsea have put down a marker today, we mean business."
Gudjohnsen_22 on 606

What the papers said
"Grumpy Old Man Grant serves grin 'n tonic for Blues" -Daily Star
"Blues are too sixy for Sven" - The People

NOVEMBER

A week after Arsenal's draw at Anfield, the Gunners were given the sternest test of their title credentials against United.

They came through it with flying colours but almost ended pointless in a game they dominated.

LEAGUE POSITIONS ON 3 NOVEMBER
1 ARSENAL Pld 11 Pts 27
2 MAN UTD Pld 12 Pts 27
4 CHELSEA Pld 12 Pts 24
7 LIVERPOOL Pld 11 Pts 21

Goals in November
Cristiano Ronaldo - 3 in 2
Emmanuel Adebayor - 1 in 3
Fernando Torres - 1 in 2
Didier Drogba - 1 in 2

At the Emirates on 3 November United went ahead through a tame Wayne Rooney shot that deflected off William Gallas, before Cesc Fabregas levelled.

Ronaldo looked to have stolen the three points only for Gallas to turn from villain to hero with an injury-time equaliser at the right end, as his effort was correctly adjudged to have crossed the line by the assistant referee.

It was widely regarded as a fully-deserved point for Arsenal, who made it a club record 25 games unbeaten in all competitions.

They would go on to extend that to 28 games before a Champions League loss at Sevilla.

Arsene Wenger's young side had overcome the loss of Thierry Henry, were scoring goals, top of the table, flying in Europe and they were doing it all with some style.

Result
Arsenal 2-2 Man Utd
3 November as it happened

What they said
"There is something special in this side. This team has great character and resilience."
Arsene Wenger

What you said
"I think Arsenal showed championship qualities today."
Apollian on 606

What the papers said
Heart of Gallas foils United - Daily Express
Resilient Arsenal grateful for the keen eye of linesman - Sunday Telegraph

DECEMBER

Christmas came a day late for football fans in England.

For the neutral, Boxing Day was a cracker, with 29 goals in the top flight - and only two of them coming against Derby.

It started off with a contender for game of the season at Stamford Bridge, with Chelsea and Aston Villa drawing 4-4 in a match that also had three red cards, controversial goals and disputed penalties.

LEAGUE POSITIONS ON 26 DECEMBER
1 MAN UTD Pld 19 Pts 45
2 ARSENAL Pld 19 Pts 44
3 CHELSEA Pld 19 Pts 38
4 LIVERPOOL Pld 18 Pts 36

Goals in December
Cristiano Ronaldo - 7 in 6
Emmanuel Adebayor - 4 in 7
Fernando Torres - 4 in 6
Didier Drogba - 0 in 1

Gareth Barry's injury-time spot-kick earned Villa a point and handed Manchester United and Arsenal a chance to extend their advantage.

There would be no season of goodwill for Sunderland as United rested some first-team players but still steamrollered them 4-0 at the Stadium of Light.

The fall-out from United's Christmas party antics was still bubbling away, but on the field it was business as usual as they won their fifth league game in a row to go top and seven points clear of Chelsea.

Arsenal had beaten Chelsea and Spurs inside a week but suffered a Boxing Day hangover when they were frustrated at Fratton Park, with Pompey holding firm for a goalless draw.

Liverpool needed a last-minute winner by Steven Gerrard to beat Derby and remain clinging on to the coat-tails of the leaders, but that would all change in January.

Results
Chelsea 4-4 Aston Villa
Portsmouth 0-0 Arsenal
Sunderland 0-4 Man Utd
Derby 1-2 Liverpool
Boxing Day as it happened

What they said
"It's not easy times. As long as we have a chance we will not give up on the title."
Avram Grant

What you said
"Great game for the neutrals I hear, but Chelsea won't win much this season defending like that."
The Gianfranco Zola Stand on 606

What the papers said
Rampant United topple Arsenal - The Times
Wenger frustrated as ragged Gunners concede top spot - The Guardian

JANUARY

The games continued to come thick and fast in January.

Arsenal, who had played nine games in December, and Chelsea were still battling for trophies on four fronts and would follow up the hectic Christmas period with eight matches each in January.

No rest for the trophy-hunters.

LEAGUE POSITIONS ON 12 JANUARY
1 MAN UTD Pld 22 Pts 51
2 ARSENAL Pld 22 Pts 51
3 CHELSEA Pld 22 Pts 47
4 LIVERPOOL Pld 21 Pts 39

Goals in January
Cristiano Ronaldo - 6 in 4
Emmanuel Adebayor - 5 in 4
Fernando Torres - 2 in 4
Didier Drogba - 0 in 0

But there was little sign of wear and tear as Chelsea brushed aside Tottenham 2-0 in the middle of a nine-game winning run that started in December and was to continue into February.

Arsenal were also looking in decent nick with some performances that continued to have the pundits purring.

But they would come unstuck at home to Birmingham on 12 January, with Garry O'Connor's deflected header earning Blues a 1-1 draw.

Manchester United went top on goal difference with a 6-0 demolition job on managerless Newcastle, with all the goals coming in the second half.

Cristiano Ronaldo helped himself to a hat-trick to boost his tally to 25 goals for club and country.

Meanwhile, Liverpool went winless in the league in January and by the end of the month they were 17 points off the pace and out of the reckoning.

Results
Arsenal 1-1 Birmingham
Chelsea 2-0 Tottenham
Man Utd 6-0 Newcastle
12 January as it happened

What they said
"It's about time he got a hat-trick for us! Anything is possible when Cristiano is on the pitch."
Man Utd defender Rio Ferdinand

What you said
"A display to scare any football team."
RedDevil 16 on 606

What the papers said
Red-hot Ronaldo piles on the pain - Daily Star
United in six romp - Sunday Mirror

FEBRUARY

If one game was to decide the fate of a team's season, it was at St Andrews on 23 February.

Arsene Wenger had opted not to dip into the transfer market in January, deciding to stick with the players who had taken his side to the top of the table.

LEAGUE POSITIONS ON 23 FEBRUARY
1 ARSENAL Pld 27 Pts 64
2 MAN UTD Pld 27 Pts 61
3 CHELSEA Pld 26 Pts 55
4 LIVERPOOL Pld 26 Pts 47

Goals in February
Cristiano Ronaldo - 2 in 3
Emmanuel Adebayor - 3 in 3
Fernando Torres - 4 in 2
Didier Drogba - 0 in 0

But as the title race approached the last lap his weary squad began to flag.

A below-strength side had been well beaten 4-0 at United in the FA Cup and they were left emotionally battered and bruised at Birmingham.

A win would have put them eight points clear of United, who were playing later that day.

But nothing went right for Arsenal, who lost Eduardo for the season to a horrific injury, and there was further damage when James McFadden scored from the penalty spot in injury time to seal a 2-2 draw.

It was all too much for captain William Gallas, who staged a sit-down protest and had to be comforted by Wenger at the end of the match, and the Gunners would struggle to recover.

It would also prove to be a pivotal point for United and Chelsea.

United, who lost for a second time to rivals City earlier in the month on the day of the Munich memorial, would follow Arsenal's draw with a 5-1 win over Newcastle.

Their two games with the Magpies had boosted their goal difference by 10 goals, giving them virtually an extra point on their rivals.

The gap at the top was narrowed and the momentum had shifted significantly in United's favour.

A day later Chelsea lost the League Cup final to Spurs amid a talk of a rift between skipper John Terry and Grant, who was heavily criticised for his tactics at Wembley.

It was a major setback to Grant's hopes of winning over the fans and seemed set to scupper their lingering title aspirations.

Results
Birmingham 2-2 Arsenal
Newcastle 1-5 Man Utd
23 February as it happened

Tottenham 2-1 Chelsea
Carling Cup final as it happened

What they said
"Gallas was frustrated, he is a winner and sometimes you have to get your frustration out."
Arsene Wenger

What you said
"Now we all know Jose was spot on with regard to Gallas."
Walham Green on 606

What the papers said
Gallas goes ga-ga - News of the World
Wenger vents his anger after Eduardo horror - Independent on Sunday

MARCH

Manchester United v Liverpool and Chelsea v Arsenal on Easter Sunday. Would it be the day when Arsenal's challenge would be resurrected?

There would be no Easter offerings from United, who were aided by some questionable refereeing and some dodgy goalkeeping as their march towards the title gathered pace with a 3-0 win.

LEAGUE POSITIONS ON 23 MARCH
1 MAN UTD Pld 31 Pts 73
2 CHELSEA Pld 31 Pts 68
3 ARSENAL Pld 31 Pts 67
4 LIVERPOOL Pld 31 Pts 59

Goals in March
Cristiano Ronaldo - 5 in 5
Emmanuel Adebayor - 0 in 5
Fernando Torres - 6 in 6
Didier Drogba - 3 in 5

Arsenal's response to the Birmingham setback was to draw with Villa, Wigan and Middlesbrough, but they went to Chelsea on 23 March knowing a win would reignite their title hopes.

Four days before they met at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea had tossed away a couple of points after another 4-4 classic - this time against Tottenham.

Arsenal led through the impressive Bacary Sagna, who then went off injured, forcing Wenger to rework his defence.

Didier Drogba, who had just five league goals to his name before that week, came up trumps with two goals in the final 20 minutes to settle the game and see Chelsea hurdle Arsenal into second.

Questions had been raised about Grant in the big games, but the victory would answer those doubts and mark them out as United's chief challengers.

Results
Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal
Man Utd 3-0 Liverpool
23 March as it happened

What they said
"I think the win gave our club the belief we are still in the race against United."
Didier Drogba

What you said
"Torres failed to deliver, unlike Drogba, who yet again has proved to be the best striker in the Premier League."
Robin Dragons on 606

What the papers said
AV'S magic show Didi the trick - Daily Star
Wenger forced to admit that his side have a soft centre - The Times

APRIL

Going into April, United held a five-point lead with six games remaining.

The league table suggested the title was as good as over, but the fixture list argued that they had two final furlongs to cover before the celebrations could begin.

LEAGUE POSITIONS ON 26 APRIL
1 MAN UTD Pld 36 Pts 81
2 CHELSEA Pld 36 Pts 81
3 ARSENAL Pld 35 Pts 74
4 LIVERPOOL Pld 36 Pts 70

Goals in April
Cristiano Ronaldo - 2 in 4
Emmanuel Adebayor - 5 in 4
Fernando Torres - 1 in 2
Didier Drogba - 0 in 1

A draw at Middlesbrough gave the contenders renewed hope but when United came from a goal down to beat Arsenal at Old Trafford it seemed they could afford a slip-up at Chelsea on 26 April and still cross the line in first place.

They scraped a draw with a late Carlos Tevez goal at Blackburn in the build-up to their trip to Stamford Bridge, which meant that Chelsea could level things up with a win over Ferguson's side.

Chelsea had also wobbled at Wigan but against United they showed the big-match fighting qualities of a champion.

United had taken 13 points from their five previous games against their 'big four' rivals.

But they chose to start without Ronaldo and lost Nemanja Vidic to injury, while Wayne Rooney, who has not finished on the losing side in the league this season, was taken off injured after levelling the scores at 1-1.

Chelsea's unbeaten run in the league coincided with the return of Michael Ballack and he illustrated his increasing influence with both goals, including a late penalty that decided the points.

Some of United's players were involved in a post-match fracas with Chelsea's groundstaff and a buoyant Grant stoked the fires by suggesting their opponents could choke.

Chelsea had erased the gap and only United's healthy goal difference stood between the sides with two games still to go.

Did the title race have one final twist?

Result
Chelsea 2-1 Man Utd
26 April as it happened

What they said
"The title is still in our hands. We have got two games, and the players and supporters will be really fired up for West Ham."
Sir Alex Ferguson

What you said
"West Ham are Man U's dodgy team, I can see it ending in a draw and Sir Alex Ferguson busting a blood vessel in his neck on the touchline."
BornBlue on 606

What the papers said
Fergie fails big test as United challenge ends in disgrace - Express on Sunday
We've got you by the Ballacks Fergie - The People

MAY

So the title challenge headed into the month of May.

It was still United's to lose but there was no evidence of squeaky bum time as they comfortably saw off West Ham 4-1 at home.

However, Chelsea were looking increasingly refreshed as the season came to a close.

In a campaign in which they missed several key names through injury or African Nations Cup duty, they had all their big guns back in action for the closing stages.

FINAL TABLE
1 MAN UTD Pld 38 Pts 87
2 CHELSEA Pld 38 Pts 85
3 ARSENAL Pld 38 Pts 83
4 LIVERPOOL Pld 38 Pts 76

Goals this season
Cristiano Ronaldo - 31 in 34
Fernando Torres - 24 in 33
Emmanuel Adebayor - 24 in 36
Didier Drogba - 8 in 19

Defeat at Newcastle would have handed the title to United but a routine 2-0 victory saw Grant's side take their challenge down to the last day.

United's final day opponents were Wigan - the only current Premier League side never to have taken a point off them.

Chelsea were at home to Bolton in a fixture they had only won once in the previous four meetings.

The final day was not to be without drama or controversy as Wigan proved good to their word in making United fight for the right to have a title party.

The Latics were denied a good penalty shout before a Cristiano Ronaldo spot-kick - his 31st in an astonishing league season - settled their nerves.

Chelsea went in front with half an hour left to play and at that stage a goal for Wigan would have bumped the Blues into pole position.

United veteran Ryan Giggs was the man to seal the deal with a second goal in the 80th minute.

Chelsea's hopes were done and dusted and as United began their celebrations at the JJB a 90th-minute equaliser from Matt Taylor deprived the London club a winning finish.

So the season ends in disappointment for Chelsea, as well as Liverpool and an Arsenal side that finished in third place with 83 points - a total good enough to win the title six out of the previous 12 years.

For United the win is the culmination of a season's hard work, that started poorly but ultimately had a happy ending.

But Chelsea do not even have to wait until next season for some revenge, with United their opponents in the Champions League final on 21 May.

Results
Chelsea 1-1 Bolton
Wigan 0-2 Man Utd
Final day as it happened

What they said
"This side is young. There is plenty left in them."
Sir Alex Ferguson

"I wish we had two weeks more."
Avram Grant

"I feel we were one game away in this championship. If we won at Old Trafford, we are champions."
Arsene Wenger

"I am sure I can win more titles for this club because I have a clear idea about what to do in the future."
Rafa Benitez

What you said
"Well played, whoever wins the title always deserves it. Can't wait until Moscow!"
essienisanengine on 606

What the papers said
Sealed with a Cris - The Sun




Barclays Premier League Table
01 February 2010 22:00
    P GD PTS
1 Chelsea 23 38 54
2 Man Utd 24 36 53
3 Arsenal 24 32 49
4 Tottenham 24 20 42

5 Liverpool 24 16 41

6 Man City 22 14 41
7 Aston Villa 23 13 40
8 Birmingham 23 -1 34
9 Everton 23 -1 32
10 Blackburn 24 -15 28
11 Fulham 23 -2 27
12 Stoke 22 -7 26
13 Sunderland 23 -10 24
14 Wigan 22 -23 22
15 West Ham 23 -9 21
16 Bolton 22 -15 21
17 Wolverhampton 23 -21 21

18 Burnley 23 -23 20
19 Hull 23 -26 20
20 Portsmouth 22 -16 15

see also
Title race photos
11 May 08 |  Football
BBC pundits on the Premier League
11 May 08 |  Premier League
Comment: Sir Alex adds to legend
11 May 08 |  Football
Tenth triumph delights Ferguson
11 May 08 |  Man Utd
Grant gracious after title blow
11 May 08 |  Premier League
Wigan 0-2 Man Utd
11 May 08 |  Premier League
Chelsea 1-1 Bolton
11 May 08 |  Premier League
Chelsea 2-1 Man Utd
26 Apr 08 |  Premier League
Man Utd 3-0 Liverpool
23 Mar 08 |  Premier League
Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal
23 Mar 08 |  Premier League
Tottenham 2-1 Chelsea
24 Feb 08 |  Football
Newcastle 1-5 Man Utd
23 Feb 08 |  Premier League
Birmingham 2-2 Arsenal
23 Feb 08 |  Premier League
Man Utd 6-0 Newcastle
12 Jan 08 |  Premier League
Arsenal 1-1 Birmingham
12 Jan 08 |  Premier League
Portsmouth 0-0 Arsenal
26 Dec 07 |  Premier League
Chelsea 4-4 Aston Villa
26 Dec 07 |  Premier League
Sunderland 0-4 Man Utd
26 Dec 07 |  Premier League
Arsenal 2-2 Man Utd
03 Nov 07 |  Premier League
Man Utd 4-1 Middlesbrough
27 Oct 07 |  Premier League
Chelsea 6-0 Man City
27 Oct 07 |  Premier League
Man Utd 2-0 Chelsea
23 Sep 07 |  Premier League
Man City 1-0 Man Utd
19 Aug 07 |  Premier League


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