Premier League: A world of its own

The best of players, top-drawer performances and competition and record viewership... That’s the Premier League for you. And one cannot discount its rich history too. Sportstar sheds light on the various editions of the league and the winners.

Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, lifts the Premier League trophy. The victory in the 2012-13 season was United’s 13th Premier League title and the 20th English League crown overall.   -  Getty Images

1992-93: The high-profile signings, brought about by increased wealth that the clubs found in the new, breakaway Premier League, gave club football in England a new dimension. Manchester United, which had won the football league First Division only seven times in the over 100-year history of the tournament, found the new arrangement convenient to its purpose. United ended a 26-year title drought by winning the crown in the first Premier League with a 10-point lead over runner-up Aston Villa. This was also Alex Ferguson’s early steps towards immortality, the title being his first with the club he joined in 1986.

1993-94: Continuing from where it left off in the inaugural season, Man United led almost through the 1993-94 edition and finished champion, eight points clear of runner-up Blackburn Rovers. United also won the FA Cup, beating Chelsea 4-0 in the final and in the process ensured a grand double, which only three other teams had previously achieved in 20th century.

1994-95: Manchester United striker and French international Eric Cantona’s notorious kung-fu kick at a fan was the talking point of the season. Cantona’s assault on a Crystal Palace fan earned him an eight-month suspension. Manchester United also seemed to lose its way during the season, as Kenny Dalglish’s Blackburn Rovers won its first league title in 67 years, pipping the former by a lone point in a virtual photo-finish, where the title was decided in the last round.

1995-96: The Premier League title returned to Old Trafford, as Manchester United weathered a determined bid by Newcastle United. This was the season when the Premiership decided to cut down the number of clubs from 22 to 20. Thus, only two teams, as against the usual four, were promoted. Newcastle ran up a good lead in the standings, but ManU cut down its advantage to finally secure the title in the final round, pipping Newcastle by four points.

Arsenal players celebrate after winning the 2003-04 Premier League crown.   -  Getty Images

1996-97: The title remained at Old Trafford. Man United seemed to have devised a strategy to stay ahead in the long format of the league. Newcastle, Arsenal, which had a new manager in Arsene Wenger, and Liverpool were in the hunt for the title, but ManU came up with a proper finish in the final stages, where both Newcastle and Arsenal stumbled in the penultimate rounds, and the club from Old Trafford emerged winner by seven points.

1997-98: Wenger became the first name from outside Great Britain to stamp his authority in the Premier League, as Arsenal won the title, nudging past the now established giant, Manchester United, by a single point. This was Wenger’s first full term as manager and Arsenal made a fantastic turnaround in the final three months of the season when it utilised the advantage of having three extra games in hand over leader Man United.

Arsenal, which finished on top after overhauling Man United’s 11-point lead, went on to win the FA Cup. The Gunners, thus, became the only team to match Manchester United’s record of two ‘doubles’.

1998-99: Manchester United stamped its authority once again despite opening the season with a demoralising 3-0 defeat to Arsenal in the 1998 FA Charity Shield. The loss did not bother Ferguson, who made a change to his coaching staff by bringing in Steve McClaren as his deputy. The season was unique for Manchester United, as it won the treble — the Premier League, FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League.

Man United faced Arsenal’s challenge for the Premiership title and it overtook the Gunners by a single point in the final round, securing a come-from-behind 2-1 win against Tottenham Hotspur.

1999-2000: Entering the new millennium, Man United under Ferguson continued to impress with its imperious march in the Premier League.

With the league in its eighth season, Man United secured its sixth title, as Arsenal was consigned to the runner-up spot once again. ManU secured 91 points — one of the highest in the Premier League history — to beat Arsenal by 18 points.

2000-2001: Manchester United registered the first hat-trick of triumphs in the Premier League, while Ferguson became the first manager to win three consecutive titles with the same club. ManU continued its dominant form, as Arsenal’s quest to regain the title went in vain.

Arsenal played magnificently in the early stages of the competition, but ManU proved to be consistent with its performance and signalled its intent to win its seventh Premier League title with a 6-1 drubbing of the Gunners at Old Trafford. Despite Ferguson’s phenomenal success, the Manager of the Year Award went to George Burley of Ipswich Town. Burley was credited with guiding the newly promoted side, which was also expected to be relegated, to fifth place in the league.

2001-02: The season saw Man United’s hegemony blunted considerably. The fight for the title this time was between the four teams, Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool and Newcastle. Wenger, who had seen Arsenal finish runner-up to ManU in the previous three seasons, was determined to bring the title back to Highbury and signed a new four-year deal with the Gunners. Arsenal posted a convincing win over ManU at Old Trafford in the penultimate game of the season and won back the title with a seven-point lead in league table.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho watches his players stretch out at a training session. The charismatic Portuguese manager turned Chelsea into an outfit that would break records.   -  Getty Images

2002-03: Man United won its eighth crown, putting to rest whatever doubts there might have been of its pre-eminence as one of the greatest clubs in English football, and perhaps even the world.

Continuing from where it left off last year, the defending champion, Arsenal, raced ahead by the halfway stage and established an eight-point lead going into the homestretch. However, the Gunners fumbled towards the end, squandering a lead against Bolton Wanderers and then capitulating against Leeds United (2-3) at home, to blow its chances of winning the title. ManU, always the better finisher, coasted home and won the crown with a five-point lead.

2003-04: Arsenal made a fantastic return and reclaimed the title with a fabulous record of remaining unbeaten through the season. It was the first team to do so in a 38 games per team Premier league.

Arsenal’s achievement overshadowed the record of Preston North End, which was the first team to remain unbeaten, in 1889, but in a 22 games per team league. Arsenal tallied 90 points from 26 wins and 12 draws — 11 points more than its nearest challenger Chelsea. French striker Thierry Henry played a big part in Arsenal’s success and was the top scorer with 30 goals.

2004-05: Chelsea claimed its maiden Premier League title with a record 95 points. This was the year the charismatic and often controversial Portuguese manager, Jose Mourinho, joined Chelsea and turned the previous season’s runner-up into an outfit that would break records. Chelsea also set records for winning the most number of games in a season, 29, and conceding the least number of goals,15.

2005-06: The ‘Mourinho Effect’ continued, as Chelsea became only the second team, after ManU, to retain the Premier League title. Though Chelsea did not set many records as it did in the previous season, the team preserved its outstanding winning record of 29 from 38 matches to emerge a creditable champion. Chelsea was ahead of second-placed ManU by seven points.

Chelsea began the season in a fantastic manner, registering 15 wins in its first 16 games.

2006-07: Another closely contested season where ManU kept its composure towards the end to pick up its ninth title. Chelsea, in quest of its third straight title, stumbled when it mattered, failing to win against Arsenal in the new Emirates Stadium in Highbury. This handed ManU the advantage as it regained the title after a break of two seasons.

Didier Drogba, representing Chelsea, became the top scorer, replacing Thierry Henry of Arsenal, who had won the honours in the previous three seasons.

Roberto Mancini with the Barclays Premier League trophy after guiding Manchester City to victory in the 2011-12 season.   -  Getty Images

2007-08: Cristiano Ronaldo made a big appearance for Man United, helping the team claim its 10th Premier League title by successfully thwarting the challenge of Chelsea. The winner was decided on the final day.

Ronaldo top scored with 31 goals, as Man United finished two points ahead of Chelsea in the final standings. The season also saw the English league returning to the top of UEFA’s official ranking list, overtaking the Spanish La Liga (for the period May 1, 2008 to April 30, 2009). This was a great accomplishment for the English Premier League since the Heysel Stadium tragedy in 1985.

2008-09: Manchester United scored its second hat-trick of title triumphs since the launch of the Premiership. Liverpool gave United a close chase and won both the home and away matches. Liverpool’s best came when it beat Man United 4-1 away at Old Trafford. Liverpool, however, was done in by a series of draws that gave United a six-point advantage in the end and its 11th title in 17 seasons. Chelsea’s Nicolas Anelka became the top scorer (19 goals), nudging Ronaldo (18) to the second spot.

2009-10: Chelsea, under Italian manager Carlo Ancelotti, made a strong bid and regained the title. True to its style, Chelsea claimed the Premier League crown by scoring a record 103 goals. It was a closely contested season, and the race for the title went into the final day with Chelsea managing a one-point lead over Manchester United.

Chelsea’s striker Didier Drogba returned to the top of the goal-scoring chart with 29 goals.

2010-11: Man United was back in form, securing its 12th Premier League title (in 19 seasons). It sealed its triumph with a 1-1 draw against Blackburn Rovers, which saw the Old Trafford team finish nine points ahead of Chelsea.

Overall, this was the 19th English league title for United, which overtook Liverpool to become the most successful club in England.

2011-12: Manchester City, under its new Italian manager Roberto Mancini, secured its first Premier League title. It became the fifth team, after Man United, Blackburn Rovers, Arsenal and Chelsea, to win the title in the 20-year history of the tournament. This was also City’s first English league title since 1968.

City finished level on 89 points with local rival Manchester United. City, however, emerged winner with a better goal-difference.

Manchester City, thus, became the first team to win the Premier League title on goal-difference. It also became the first club to reach the summit after being relegated once in the tournament.

Jamie Vardy (No. 9) of Leicester City celebrates with team-mates Andy King (No. 10) and Danny Simpson after scoring a goal against Everton in a Premier League game in 2016. Riding on Vardy’s brilliance, Leicester finished on top in the 2015-16 season.   -  Getty Images

2012-13: Manchester United returned to the top once again, winning its 13th Premier League title and the 20th English League crown overall. In one of its most authoritative displays, United confirmed the title with four games to spare, as it beat Aston Villa 3-0 at Old Trafford. Eleven points separated United from the previous year’s champion Manchester City, which took the second spot with 78 points. This was only the fourth occasion in the history of the Premier League that the title had been decided with at least four games remaining in the season. The last time this happened was in 2003-04 when Arsenal became the champion.

Looking at the incredible record of United, the manager of the England national team, Roy Hodgson, declared that Alex Ferguson was nothing less than a “magician” for having helped ManU win 13 titles in 21 seasons.

2013-14: Manchester City bounced back to the top, this time under Chilean manager Manuel Pellegrini. It won the title by a slender margin of two points over Liverpool. With Man United struggling to come to terms with the retirement of Alex Ferguson, there appeared to be a void at the top. City and Liverpool, which was looking to rebuild under Northern Ireland manager Brendan Rodgers, appeared to make the most of the situation. City won the title quite dramatically with a 2-0 victory over West Ham United on the final day of the season to finish with 86 points. Liverpool, which looked on course to win the title only a couple of weeks ago, wavered in two of its last three matches, losing one and drawing the other, to finish second with 84 points. Defending champion Man United finished a disappointing seventh.

2014-15: This was one of the most convincing triumphs for Chelsea in the Premier League. With Mourinho returning to Stamford Bridge as manager, Chelsea won the title with three games to spare, following a 1-0 home win against Crystal Palace. The victory placed Chelsea eight points clear of Manchester City (79) at the top.

2015-16: This was a defining moment not only in the history of the English Premier League but also English football, as Leicester City FC, founded in 1884, won the championship for the first time. It became the 24th club to be crowned English football champion, and the sixth to win the Premier League.

Leicester City’s victory took the world by storm as the club, which spent much of the previous season in the relegation zone before finishing 14th, literally came out of the blue to secure the EPL title.

The team began the new season under Italian Claudio Ranieri — whose appointment was met with scepticism — and reached the top of the table riding on Jamie Vardy’s record of scoring in 11 consecutive Premier League games. Leicester dropped to second spot once in late December following a 1-0 defeat to Liverpool, but returned to the top soon after and remained there for the rest of the season. Leicester City finished 10 points clear of second-placed Arsenal in the final standings.

2016-17: With the Premier League into its 25th year, Chelsea won its fifth Premiership crown and sixth English title with two matches to spare following a 1-0 away win over West Bromwich Albion. The defending champion, Leicester City, was pushed into the oblivion. It finished a poor 12th in the final standings.

Chelsea, this time managed by Italian Antonio Conte, scored a whopping 30 wins in 38 matches and tallied 93 points to beat its nearest challenger Tottenham Hotspur by seven points.