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How the Premier League was won

Man Utd boss Sir Alex Ferguson

By Jonathan Stevenson and Caroline Cheese

Manchester United drew with Arsenal at Old Trafford on Saturday to wrap up their 11th Premier League and 18th English league title.

But how did the season unfold? BBC Sport looks back over the past 10 months and picks out some of the crucial moments that shaped the destiny of the championship.

May

AUGUST

Manchester United's march to the title started inauspiciously with a 1-1 draw at home to a Kevin Keegan-led Newcastle.

Sir Alex Ferguson had warded off the attentions of Real Madrid over the summer to keep hold of Cristiano Ronaldo but the Portuguese winger sat injured as United laboured.

POSITIONS ON 31 AUGUST
1 CHELSEA Pld 3 Pts 7
2 LIVERPOOL Pld 3 Pts 7

9 MAN UTD Pld 2 Pts 4

After an unconvincing win at Portsmouth, United headed off to Monaco where they lost out to Zenit St Petersburg in the Uefa Super Cup.

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez, meanwhile, was still fuming over the Reds' failure to sign Gareth Barry and despite the addition of £20m striker Robbie Keane, his side failed to impress, needing late goals to see off Sunderland and Middlesbrough before grinding out a 0-0 draw at Aston Villa.

August's plaudits, then, went to Chelsea, apparently reborn as a stylish, attacking side under new boss Luiz Felipe Scolari.

After a free-scoring pre-season, the Brazilian's first game in English football was a stunning 4-0 win over Portsmouth, while new signing Deco made it two goals in two games with the only strike in a win at Wigan.


What they said
"I think the owner is happy, like the other fans. I only give the players the freedom to play and allow them to express their style."
Luiz Felipe Scolari

What we said
"Hmmm... interesting. Newcastle - who shipped 11 goals against Manchester United last season - hold on for a fully-deserved draw. Kevin Keegan is ruddy delighted with that - and why not?"
Caroline Cheese, 17 Aug, 2008: Man Utd 1-1 Newcastle
Premier League as it happened

What you said
"I've always supported Benitez and thought we should give him time. But I'm rapidly losing patience. I hate the negative game we've been playing." - razzamatazzdazz on 606

SEPTEMBER

Manchester United's stuttering start became a mini-crisis when they lost to fierce rivals Liverpool, Benitez getting the better of Ferguson in the league for the first time at Anfield courtesy of Ryan Babel's winner.

They recovered with a point at Chelsea as Ronaldo returned, but Ferguson could not hide his disappointment at what he saw as a missed opportunity to close the gap at the top.

POSITIONS ON 28 SEPTEMBER
1 CHELSEA Pld 6 Pts 14
2 LIVERPOOL Pld 6 Pts 14

11 MAN UTD Pld 5 Pts 8

Meanwhile, the Blues continued on their merry way at the summit despite missing out on the deadline day signing of Brazilian forward Robinho, who instead moved to Manchester City.

Chelsea showed Robinho what he could have won with a 3-1 thumping of his new team in their own back yard, before winning impressively at Stoke to continue their rebirth under Scolari.

But it was not all good news for Chelsea, with highly-regarded first-team coach Steve Clarke walking out halfway through the month to join ex-Blues legend Gianfranco Zola at West Ham.

Liverpool were buoyed by their victory at Old Trafford, but soon came crashing back down to earth as they were held 0-0 at home against Stoke.

If Benitez wanted a reaction from his team, he got it courtesy of a surprisingly comfortable 2-0 win at Merseyside rivals Everton, thanks to a Fernando Torres brace.


What they said
"I feel we have missed a good chance, obviously. If we had had a bit more energy, we would have been OK."
Sir Alex Ferguson

What we said
"Rafa Benitez celebrates his first league win over Manchester United since 2004 - and it was a deserved one too. The equaliser was more than fortunate but from then on, Liverpool took control. Dimitar Berbatov summed up United - bright start, but faded dramatically."
Caroline Cheese, 13 Sep, 2008: Liverpool 2-1 Man Utd
Premier League as it happened

What you said
"There is a lot to say here, but it is safe to say that winning the league will be a very demanding task this season." - Traffordlord on 606

OCTOBER

Liverpool announced their intentions to make a genuine title challenge by picking up four straight wins - and that included inflicting a damaging defeat on one of their biggest rivals.

Two successive late Dirk Kuyt goals earned the Reds come-from-behind wins at Man City and at home to Wigan, before they travelled to Stamford Bridge, where Chelsea had not lost for 86 home league games.

POSITIONS ON 26 OCTOBER
1 LIVERPOOL Pld 10 Pts 26
2 CHELSEA Pld 10 Pts 23

6 MAN UTD Pld 9 Pts 18

Despite being without the injured Torres, Liverpool dominated and Xabi Alonso's deflected early strike sent a powerful message to the rest of the Premier League.

Chelsea began their recovery by thrashing Hull at the KC Stadium, but there were certainly signs that Scolari was not going to have it all his own way in England.

The champions were starting to find things easier and the goals began to flow too - three each from Wayne Rooney and Ronaldo and a first in the league for £30.75m man Dimitar Berbatov.

Indeed, Manchester United's only dropped points came at Goodison Park, as a magnificent performance from ex-Red Devils keeper Tim Howard meant they had to settle for a 1-1 draw.


What they said
"To win at Chelsea and stay top of the table unbeaten is a massive message for the other teams. It is a big boost for the rest of the season."
Rafael Benitez

What we said
"Well, that's what champions (elect) do, they win by any means necessary. Papa Bouba Diop needlessly gives away a penalty with a handball and Steven Gerrard steps up to slot just past David James."
Jonathan Stevenson, 29 Oct, 2008: Liverpool 1-0 Portsmouth
Premier League as it happened

What you said
"Liverpool may not win the league, but we have shown that we can compete with and beat any team. Maybe the others will take us a bit more seriously now." - JM75UK on 606

NOVEMBER

The first day of November brought Liverpool's first defeat, Benitez's side throwing away an early lead and wasting a glut of chances to end up losing 2-1 at rock-bottom Tottenham.

Manchester United and Chelsea capitalised in very different ways, with the former squeaking past Hull 4-3 in a thriller at Old Trafford, the latter demolishing Sunderland 5-0 at the Bridge.

POSITIONS ON 24 NOVEMBER
1 CHELSEA Pld 14 Pts 33
2 LIVERPOOL Pld 14 Pts 33
3 MAN UTD Pld 13 Pts 25

The Reds recovered their composure to see off West Brom and Bolton, but they threw more crucial points away at Anfield as Fulham held them to a frustrating 0-0 draw.

United continued to struggle and a 2-1 defeat at Arsenal thanks to a Samir Nasri brace was followed up with a goalless draw at Aston Villa, with Rooney wasting a glorious chance to win it.

Chelsea had gone top, but the month ended in disarray for Big Phil and his boys too as they drew 0-0 at home against Newcastle before losing again at the Bridge, 2-1 to Arsenal.

The Blues even went in front, before a quickfire Robin van Persie brace - one of which was clearly offside - silenced the Chelsea fans, who found their voice in time to jeer their players off the pitch.


What they said
"We lost because one goal was not a goal and it was a goal that changed the result. The offside killed my team."
Luiz Felipe Scolari

What we said
"That was a truly sensational advert for Premier League football and the Arsenal players and supporters are lapping up a famous - and unexpected - victory. Both teams played some cracking stuff and the better team on the day won, you can't ask for more than that, can you?"
Jonathan Stevenson, 8 Nov, 2008: Arsenal 2-1 Man Utd
Premier League as it happened

What you said
"I like the way that Man Utd aren't even mentioned in this title race. Now Chelsea have lost, it must be Liverpool's? Complete rubbish. United to make it three in a row." - plasticoutcome on 606

DECEMBER

It seemed as though no-one wanted to win the Premier League in December - music to the ears of Manchester United, who were busy in Japan winning the Club World Cup.

Ferguson's team did manage three unconvincing 1-0 wins as well as a goalless draw at Spurs, and his mood was further lifted by Liverpool and Chelsea's on-going travails.

POSITIONS ON 29 DECEMBER
1 LIVERPOOL Pld 20 Pts 45
2 CHELSEA Pld 20 Pts 42
3 MAN UTD Pld 18 Pts 38

Three wins sent the Reds back to the summit including a stunning 5-1 demolition of Newcastle, but it was the three more draws they were held to that provided Benitez with a real headache.

It was a painful month all round for the Spaniard, as he underwent an operation to remove kidney stones prior to the 1-1 draw at Arsenal.

Misfiring Robbie Keane was badly out of sorts - to such an extent that at 2-2 at home against Hull, Benitez sent on Nabil El Zhar and kept his £20m striker on the bench.

Luckily for the Reds, Scolari and Chelsea were finding it equally hard to put any real distance between them and United, who by now had two games in hand on their rivals.

Zola went back to his old stomping ground to claim a point as West Ham boss, before Clint Dempsey bagged a last-gasp leveller as the Blues were held to a 2-2 draw at west London neighbours Fulham.


What they said
"You win nothing in December but you can lose a lot, so we're pleased to be going into the New Year at the top of the league."
Liverpool assistant Sammy Lee

What we said
"Chelsea boss Luiz Felipe Scolari is taking plenty of stick over on 606. If the Blues lose today, he could even creep ahead in the sack race."
Caroline Cheese, 28 Dec, 2008: Half-time in Fulham 2-2 Chelsea
Premier League as it happened

What you said
"By the way, I love the cockiness of the Man Utd fan who just said Liverpool were the competition this season, while languishing all those points adrift of us." - SouthCoastScouser on 606

JANUARY

If Liverpool stuttered in December, their title hopes nosedived in the New Year as they failed to win a league match.

The month began with Benitez holding his now infamous news conference in which he listed a series of "facts" about what he viewed as Ferguson's intimidation of the football authorities.

POSITIONS ON 27 JANUARY
1 MAN UTD Pld 22 Pts 50
2 LIVERPOOL Pld 22 Pts 47

4 CHELSEA Pld 22 Pts 45

"We are at the top of the table and they are nervous," said a bullish Benitez, but his words began to sound more than a little hollow when Liverpool followed a second stalemate of the season against Stoke with draws against Everton and Wigan.

But Benitez's problems were nothing compared to those of an increasingly beleaguered Scolari.

After an embarrassing 1-1 draw at home to League One Southend in the FA Cup, Scolari's uninspired team were swept aside 3-0 by Manchester United.

It left Scolari with a record of one point from four matches against 'Big Four' opposition, with the Brazilian candidly admitting: "This could do very big damage to us."

Manchester United's record-breaking goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar
Man Utd and Van der Sar broke Chelsea's clean sheet record

For Ferguson, who concluded that Benitez "must be disturbed about something", it was plain sailing as United added 1-0 wins against Wigan, Bolton and Everton, as well as a 5-0 thrashing of West Brom, to knock Liverpool off the top of the table.

The victory over the Baggies brought with it a new Premier League record of 11 successive clean sheets, too - a run which would eventually stretch to an incredible 14 matches.


What they said
"I want to talk about facts... Mr Ferguson is the only manager in the league that cannot be punished for these things... We had a Respect campaign meeting and I said forget it, because Mr Ferguson is killing the referees."
Rafael Benitez Rafa's 'Rant' in full

What we said
"Chelsea are struggling badly right now. They have no width, no options and, it seems, no real desire to haul themselves back into this match. United are by far the better team."
Jonathan Stevenson, 11 Jan, 2009: Man Utd 3-0 Chelsea
Premier League as it happened

What you said
"And this performance [against Stoke] is why Liverpool will not win the title" - robkil on 606

FEBRUARY

The month started in disastrous fashion for Chelsea with a late, late 2-0 defeat at Anfield, Torres scoring twice for Liverpool in the last minute.

Big Phil's team could not recover, drawing 0-0 at home to Hull the following weekend, and the Brazilian was unceremoniously fired by owner Roman Abramovich.

POSITIONS ON 23 FEBRUARY
1 MAN UTD Pld 26 Pts 62
2 LIVERPOOL Pld 26 Pts 55
3 CHELSEA Pld 26 Pts 52

In came Dutch master manager Guus Hiddink, who had a mountain to climb if he was to deliver the title to Abramovich and the Chelsea faithful.

It was a title that was appearing more destined for Old Trafford as the weeks went by, Manchester United winning all three of their league games in February.

The 1-0 triumph at West Ham meant that goalscorer Ryan Giggs - the eventual Player of the Year - kept up his astonishing record of having scored in every season of the Premier League since its inception in 1992.

Having beaten Chelsea, Liverpool proceeded to throw away all their good work as they were once more held at home, this time by Manchester City, before a desperate 2-0 defeat at relegation-haunted Middlesbrough.


What they said
"Before the Middlesbrough game it was very difficult - after the game it is more difficult, clearly. It depends a bit on United."
Rafael Benitez

What we said
"This is turning into a nightmare afternoon for Liverpool, losing for only the second time this season against a team who hadn't won for 14 league games. Man Utd seven points clear, and now with a game in hand."
Caroline Cheese, 28 Feb, 2009: Middlesbrough 2-0 Liverpool
Premier League as it happened

What you said
"You can't win a league with a manager like Benitez who bought so many average players. Watching how Liverpool play under him makes me real sick." - pk_macedon on 606

MARCH

If the title race appeared done and dusted in February, events in March breathed new life into the battle for the Premier League.

In the space of 90 astonishing minutes at Old Trafford, Liverpool destroyed the myth that Manchester United were infallible with a crushing 4-1 win in their fiercest rivals' back yard.

POSITIONS ON 22 MARCH
1 MAN UTD Pld 29 Pts 65
2 LIVERPOOL Pld 30 Pts 64
3 CHELSEA Pld 30 Pts 61

There was still a gap at the top, but psychologically it proved significant, in the short-term at least.

United followed it up with a 2-0 defeat at Fulham - meaning first back-to-back league defeats since 2005, and Paul Scholes and Rooney were sent off to boot.

Liverpool capitalised with intent, destroying Champions League-chasing Aston Villa 5-0 at Anfield, with inspirational captain Steven Gerrard grabbing a hat-trick.

Chelsea, meanwhile, crept back into contention with 1-0 wins over Portsmouth and Manchester City, before they were on the wrong end of the same scoreline at Tottenham.

It was their first defeat under Hiddink, and the Dutchman was quick to accept that the result was a hammer blow to their title aspirations.


What they said
"These are the days you look back on and regret very much when you are in a title race. We have missed an ideal opportunity."
Guus Hiddink

What we said
"I'm utterly stunned. Who could have possibly seen that coming? United haven't suffered a home defeat like that since New Year's Day 1992, when Dennis Bailey bagged a hat-trick and QPR left Old Trafford with three points and a 4-1 victory."
Jonathan Stevenson, 14 Mar, 2009: Man Utd 1-4 Liverpool
Premier League as it happened

What you said
"You want to know what's changed over the weekend? Another game has gone by. The games left counter is slowly reducing... your chance of catching up is fading" - MU-Blade on 606

APRIL

Manchester United went into April rocking, their bid for a third successive Premier League title seemingly in disarray.

At 2-1 down at home to Aston Villa with 10 minutes left, Ferguson could have been forgiven for wondering where it had all gone so horribly wrong.

POSITIONS ON 27 APRIL
1 MAN UTD Pld 33 Pts 77
2 LIVERPOOL Pld 34 Pts 74
3 CHELSEA Pld 34 Pts 71

But the Scot gambled big time by sending on 17-year-old Italian substitute Federico Macheda and after Cristiano Ronaldo levelled, the youngster won it in the last minute with a sensational turn and finish.

From then on, United did not look back. Macheda repeated his feat a week later to see off Sunderland, they beat Portsmouth 2-0 and then came from 2-0 down at half-time to thrash Spurs 5-2 at Old Trafford, albeit helped by a controversial penalty award.

Liverpool were hanging on their coattails, but after they were held to an extraordinary 4-4 draw at Anfield by Arsenal, for whom Andrey Arshavin bagged all four, their hopes receded once again.

Chelsea continued to eke out results thanks to Hiddink's tactical nous, but the Blues were now too far behind to have a real say on the destination of the title.


What they said
"It would have made the title race wide open if we had lost to Tottenham. But we don't even think about Liverpool, we focus on how many points we have got."
Sir Alex Ferguson

What we said
"I still don't even know where to start with that. I'm looking at a Liverpool fan who looks like he won the lottery and lost the ticket. Just incredible."
Caroline Cheese, 21 Apr, 2009: Liverpool 4-4 Arsenal
Premier League as it happened

What you said
"Liverpool have been more entertaining, scored the most goals, lost fewer games, done the double over Man Utd and Chelsea and have not lost to a team in the top six. This is why I believe they will be champions and justice will be done." - icebob24 on 606

MAY

Liverpool needed a dramatic Manchester United slip-up, and the reigning champions were in no mood to be charitable as they relentlessly hunted down an 18th English title.

United cruised to victory at Middlesbrough before easing past Manchester City at Old Trafford, and they only needed four more points to wrap it up.

POSITIONS ON 16 MAY
1 MAN UTD Pld 37 Pts 87
2 LIVERPOOL Pld 36 Pts 80
3 CHELSEA Pld 36 Pts 77

Liverpool had brushed aside Newcastle and West Ham with emphatic displays, but the destiny of the Premier League was no longer in their hands.

United fell behind at Wigan in their game in hand, but Carlos Tevez changed the course of the game and a Michael Carrick winner took United to the brink.

At home against Arsenal on Saturday, Sir Alex Ferguson's men - who face Barcelona in the Champions League final on 27 May - wrapped it all up with a 0-0 draw.

Liverpool, who have gone without league success since 1990, and Chelsea, simply could not quite match United's stunning consistency.


What they said
"Next year we are going for it again. It's a great side, a great squad. I could have picked two teams today. "
Sir Alex Ferguson

"It was an incredible effort all year round. And it was a brilliant performance against Arsenal."
Gary Neville

"It's an unbelievable feeling. Thankfully we got the job done today. The last few years have been unbelievable so hopefully we can continue."
Wayne Rooney

"It's emotional. I like Manchester, and I like the fans... Maybe goodbye. It's very difficult."
Carlos Tevez

What we said
"The United players don't really look that bothered. I'm kidding of course. They are pogo-ing about in the centre circle, while Sir Alex Ferguson tries to shakes hands with each and every one of them - including super-sub Federico Macheda and Carlos Tevez."
Caroline Cheese, 16 May, 2009: Man Utd 0-0 Arsenal
Premier League as it happened

What you said
"Now we have to stop Man Utd from overtaking us in league titles. Next season will be the ultimate showdown" - Who's that in Aurelio's back pocket? Oh it's Cristiano Ronaldo! on 606



Print Sponsor


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
Ferguson hungry for four in a row
16 May 09 |  Man Utd
Man Utd dream team
16 May 09 |  Man Utd
Alan Hansen's column
16 May 09 |  Football
Race for the title in photos
16 May 09 |  Premier League
Man Utd 1-1 Newcastle
17 Aug 08 |  Premier League
Chelsea 4-0 Portsmouth
17 Aug 08 |  Premier League
Liverpool 2-1 Man Utd
13 Sep 08 |  Premier League
Chelsea 1-1 Man Utd
21 Sep 08 |  Premier League
Man City 2-3 Liverpool
05 Oct 08 |  Premier League
Chelsea 0-1 Liverpool
26 Oct 08 |  Premier League
Tottenham 2-1 Liverpool
01 Nov 08 |  Premier League
Arsenal 2-1 Man Utd
08 Nov 08 |  Premier League
Chelsea 1-2 Arsenal
30 Nov 08 |  Premier League
Liverpool 2-2 Hull City
13 Dec 08 |  Premier League
Rafael Benitez statement
09 Jan 09 |  Liverpool
Man Utd 3-0 Chelsea
11 Jan 09 |  Premier League
Liverpool 2-0 Chelsea
01 Feb 09 |  Premier League
Scolari sacked as Chelsea manager
09 Feb 09 |  Chelsea
Middlesbrough 2-0 Liverpool
28 Feb 09 |  Premier League
Man Utd 1-4 Liverpool
14 Mar 09 |  Premier League
Fulham 2-0 Man Utd
21 Mar 09 |  Premier League
Liverpool 5-0 Aston Villa
22 Mar 09 |  Premier League
Tottenham 1-0 Chelsea
21 Mar 09 |  Premier League
Man Utd 3-2 Aston Villa
05 Apr 09 |  Premier League
Liverpool 4-4 Arsenal
21 Apr 09 |  Premier League
Wigan 1-2 Man Utd
13 May 09 |  Premier League
Man Utd 0-0 Arsenal
15 May 09 |  Premier League


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