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Premier League flashback - 2005-06 review: The Special One conquers all again

The Premier League is 20 years old and has enjoyed plenty of highlights. Here, Total Football continues its series, looking back at some of the highs and lows.

For the second successive season, Chelsea was the side to catch and ultimately, couldn’t be beaten.

They dominated the league again, winning the title from Manchester United by eight points and having leads as big as 15 during the season.

Harry Redknapp returned to Portsmouth halfway through the season and inspired a great run, to get the South Coast side, out of trouble.

Birmingham City, West Brom and a dreadful Sunderland side were relegated.


RUNNERS-UP: Manchester United

THIRD PLACE: Liverpool

RELEGATED: Birmingham City, West Brom, Portsmouth

TOP SCORERS: Thierry Henry (Arsenal) 27, Ruud Van Nistlerooy (Manchester United) 21, Darren Bent (Charlton Athletic) 18, Frank Lampard (Chelsea) 16, Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) 16, Robbie Keane (Tottenham Hotspur) 16, Marlon Harewood (West Ham United) 14, Craig Bellamy (Blackburn Rovers) 13, Yakubu (Middlesbrough) 13, Didier Drogba (Chelsea) 12, Henri Camara (Wigan Athletic) 12, Mido (Tottenham Hotspur) 11

BIGGEST WIN: Arsenal 7-0 Middlesbrough (14 January 2006)

HIGHEST SCORING GAMES: Charlton Athletic 2-5 Manchester City (4 December 2005), Blackburn Rovers 4-3 Manchester United (2 February 2006), Fulham 6-1 West Brom (12 February 2006)

PFA PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)

PFA YOUNG PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)

Having delivered the Premier League title in the club’s centenary year, Jose Mourinho and Chelsea looked even more dominant in 2005-06.

Despite a minor blip in Spring time, they beat Manchester United to the crown by eight points and the final gap was more generous on United than on the men from West London.

Once again, the Blues spent big to expand their vast amount of talent. Shaun Wright-Phillips cost £21m from Manchester City, left back Asier del Horno arrived from Athletic Bilbao for £8m and after a long courtship, midfielder Michael Essien was signed for £24.4m.

Arsenal launched a new kit to celebrate their final season at Highbury but Captain Patrick Vieira departed before the campaign began, signing for Juventus.

Wenger’s main signing was the Belarusian, Alexander Hleb from VFB Stuttgart.

Michael Owen returned to England after an unhappy season at Real Madrid, persuaded by Alan Shearer and Graeme Souness to join Newcastle. Nolberto Solano also returned to Tyneside, after two seasons with Aston Villa.

Manchester United had new owners, after Malcolm Glazer’s controversial takeover and they remained pedantic in the summer window, despite signing veteran goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar from Fulham for £2m.

Fulham also lost Andy Cole, who moved to Manchester City on a free transfer. He was joined at Eastlands by Darius Vassell.

In North London, Tottenham brought in experience, in the shape of Edgar Davids and Jermaine Jenas.

Lastly, Liverpool’s hero of Istanbul and their Champions League triumph, Jerzy Dudek, was replaced in goal by Pepe Reina, a £6m arrival from Villarreal. Rafa Benitez also brought in Bolo Zenden, Mohamed Sissoko and Peter Crouch, making the switch from relegated Southampton.

Wigan’s wonderful start

Promoted to the Premier League were Sunderland, West Ham United and Wigan Athletic.

Wigan made a wonderful start, winning eight of their first 11 matches to reach the dizzy heights of second spot in November.

Paul Jewell’s side were denied in cruel fashion on the opening weekend against the champions, losing to a stoppage time strike from returnee striker, Hernan Crespo.

After that, his side went on a run, which included shock away wins at Everton, West Brom and Aston Villa, only conceding five goals in the process.

Chelsea made a brilliant start, topping the table from week three onwards and kept clean sheets in their first six Premier League matches.

The Londoners looked invincible and won their first nine matches, which included a 5-1 triumph over Bolton and a 4-1 rout of Liverpool at Anfield.

Another team to start the season in great form were Charlton Athletic. Darren Bent scored two on his Addicks debut, as they won 3-1 at Sunderland.

Alan Curbishley’s team sat second in the table at the end of September and Bent continued to score all season, even if the form of the team, did inevitably dip.

Arsenal made a sluggish start, which included early season reverses to Chelsea and Middlesbrough but made a 100 per cent start at Highbury in their last season at the famous ground.

This included a 1-0 win over Manchester City in October, where Robert Pires scored one penalty, then tried to tap a second penalty to Thierry Henry in a training ground routine. Instead, he touched the ball, City cleared it and Pires looked like a complete fool!

The end for Roy Keane

When Roy Keane limped off with a broken metatarsal, four minutes from the end of a dour stalemate between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield in September, no-one thought too much of it.

Ultimately, it would turn out to be his last game for the Red Devils. He ripped into the side after United’s dismal 4-1 away defeat at Middlesbrough in late October. So much so, his damming interview with MUTV was pulled by the schedulers on Sir Alex Ferguson’s request.

Ferguson’s side went onto beat Chelsea the following week, with a looping Darren Fletcher header ending Chelsea’s unbeaten run of 40 games in the top flight but two weeks later, Keane’s contract was mutually terminated, after 12 years and 480 games at Old Trafford.

It was the end of an era at The Theatre of Dreams and November turned into a sad month for the men from Manchester.

Vodafone pulled the plug on their sponsorship deal, the team crashed out of the Champions’ League group stage, then football legend George Best died at the age of 59, after a long battle with alcohol.

Chelsea and Arsenal got into another bitty row, before the sides met at Highbury in December. The Blues 2-0 win ended Arsenal’s title challenge, as they slipped 20 points off the pace.

In the build-up to the match, Mourinho said this about Arsene Wenger: “I think he is one of these people who is a voyeur. He likes to watch other people.

There are some guys who, when they are at home, have a big telescope to see what happens in other families. He speaks, speaks, speaks about Chelsea!”

The first manager to be sacked in the Premier League was Alain Perrin at Portsmouth after just eight months in charge.

Milan Mandaric said; “I don’t fire managers, I think they fire themselves. If I make a mistake, I maybe make mistakes when I hire them.”

To complete the South Coast soap opera saga, Harry Redknapp returned, just a year after leaving the club for bitter rivals Southampton.

Crouch scores….what a relief!

On Saturday, 3 December 2005, the world could breathe a huge sigh of relief when Peter Crouch scored his first goal for Liverpool.

After 24 hours and 19 games without netting, he scored twice in the side’s 3-0 win over Wigan Athletic which came in the midst of ten successive wins that had the Reds up from 13th in late October, to third by the turn of the year.

Another striker in the headlines was Michael Owen, who scored his first hat-trick for Newcastle, when they beat West Ham 4-2 at Upton Park.

Owen’s season ended prematurely when he broke his metatarsal in the Magpies 2-0 defeat to Tottenham on New Year’s Eve. It was an accidental collision with England team-mate Paul Robinson but put his World Cup participation in severe jeopardy.

Charlton’s early season form evaporated, losing five on the spin, including a 5-2 defeat at home to Manchester City. Andy Cole scored twice for the visitors, showing that at 33, he still knew where the back of the net was.

Frank Lampard’s phenomenal run of Premier League consecutive appearances ended at 164, when illness caused him to miss Chelsea’s 1-0 win at Manchester City on 28 December.

After their good start, Wigan shipped 15 goals to the top five sides in the league (Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham) and began to feel the pace, although three straight wins at the end of the year, still had them in the top six going into January.

As we said goodbye to 2005 and hello to 2006, Chelsea held an 11 point lead over Manchester United, with Liverpool in third, followed by Tottenham, Wigan and Arsenal.

At the wrong end of the table, just one win for Sunderland left them propping up the table, with West Brom, Portsmouth, Birmingham and more surprisingly, Everton completing the bottom five.

Seven of the best

The biggest victory of the Premier League season was recorded on 15 January at Highbury, as Arsenal walloped Middlesbrough 7-0. Thierry Henry scored a hat-trick, on his way to yet another Golden Boot.

The pressure was increasing on Steve McLaren, whose side then lost 3-2 at home to Wigan and despite European progression, had been dragged into the relegation dogfight.

It got worse, when a woeful Aston Villa side recorded a 4-0 victory at the Riverside Stadium in early February, with Luke Moore scoring a hat-trick.

At 4-0 down, a disgusted Middlesbrough fan lost his cool, ran onto the pitch and threw his season ticket at McLaren’s face, needing to be restrained by Villa boss, David O’Leary.

Things did improve afterwards and Boro went onto shock Chelsea, winning 3-0 just one short week later. This would turn out to be Mourinho’s heaviest defeat of his reign at Stamford Bridge.

Manchester United kept the pressure on, with a last minute Rio Ferdinand header, enough to beat Liverpool 1-0 and end their run of 13 games unbeaten, 12 those of being wins.

In the January transfer window, United paid Spartak Moscow £7m for defender Nemanja Vidic and French defender Patrice Evra arrived from AS Monaco for £5.5m.

Liverpool brought in Daniel Agger, Jan Kromkamp and surprised everyone, by resigning Robbie Fowler on a free transfer from Manchester City.

Arsenal looked to the future, with the arrivals of striker Emmanuel Adebayor and 16-year-old teenage sensation, Theo Walcott from Southampton.

Other moves saw West Ham pay Norwich £7.25m for Dean Ashton, Portsmouth broke their transfer record to acquire Benjani and Danny Murphy swapped Charlton for Tottenham.

Shearer the record breaker

After a hapless display, which saw them lose 3-0 at Manchester City, Graeme Souness was sacked as Newcastle manager, with Glenn Roeder taking temporary charge.

Two days later, they beat Portsmouth 2-0 and Alan Shearer achieved another huge milestone.

The Tyneside icon scored his 201st goal for his hometown club, breaking Jackie Milburn’s long standing goalscoring record.

Chelsea beat Liverpool 2-0 at Stamford Bridge, with Pepe Reina getting a late red card for violent conduct on Arjen Robben.

Reds boss Rafa Benitez showed his disgust at the full-time whistle saying: “I have to wrap up this interview early, as I need to go and see Robben in the hospital.”

As Reina walked into a suspension, Sol Campbell was seeking treatment for depression. Campbell had substituted himself after a poor first half for Arsenal, at home to West Ham, which saw him at fault for both of the Hammers goals.

Time finally ran out on Mick McCarthy at Sunderland, after a 2-1 defeat to Manchester City in early March, he was sacked with ten games to go. The club only had a diabolical ten points on the board.

That was one of the last highs of the season for City, who lost 2-1 at Portsmouth a week later, to go on a run of nine defeats in their last ten matches, sinking to 15th in the final table.

That Pompey win, was inspired by two stunning strikes from Pedro Mendes and their survival bid started then.

Fulham pulled off a shock result to beat Chelsea at the end of March. Luis Boa Morte scored the only goal at Craven Cottage, to put Manchester United within striking distance.

‘Pressure…pressure of what?’

In typical Mourinho fashion, he dismissed United’s title threat, saying in early April:

“For me, pressure is bird flu. I’m feeling a lot of pressure with the problem in Scotland. It’s not fun and I’m more scared of it than football.”

Maybe he was but a shaky 0-0 draw at Birmingham, followed by a 2-1 Manchester United victory at Bolton, saw the gap close to six points.

On the following weekend, the Blues recovered from going an early goal down to West Ham and having Maniche sent off, to win 4-1 with ten men and when United failed to beat Sunderland at Old Trafford, the engraver could carve Chelsea’s name on the title in his sleep.

On 30 April, Chelsea won the league in crowning style. Goals from William Gallas, Joe Cole and Ricardo Carvalho spearheaded them to a 3-0 win over United, which highlighted the gulfing class between the two sides.

Despite the plucky 0-0 draw in Manchester, Sunderland got relegated that evening and went down with a meagre 15 points, registering just three wins all campaign.

Portsmouth completed an amazing escape act, winning 2-1 at Wigan, to register their sixth win in nine matches.

Harry ‘Houdini’ had done it again but it meant that both Birmingham City and West Brom were consigned to the drop on the penultimate weekend.

There was also the end of an era at The Valley, as before the home game with Blackburn, Alan Curbishley announced he was stepping down as manager after 15 years in charge.

Time runs out on Highbury

Manchester United’s final day 4-0 win over Charlton secured second spot, ahead of Liverpool, despite another run from Benitez’s side of nine successive wins at the end of the season.

Meanwhile, Shearer’s career ended three games earlier than planned after picking up a ligament injury in his side’s 4-1 win at Sunderland. Shearer remains the greatest goalscorer in both Newcastle’s and Premier League history.

Middlesbrough lost 1-0 on the last day at Fulham and got well beaten by Sevilla in the UEFA Cup final. Nevertheless, Steve McClaren would succeed Sven-Goran Eriksson as England manager after the World Cup.

The one main issue left was who was to finish fourth and take the final Champions League qualification place.

Tottenham started the day a point clear of North London rivals Arsenal but a mysterious food poisoning bug on the eve of the game, saw ten of their players not 100 per cent fit.

They went down 2-1 in East London, with Yossi Benayoun scoring the winner.

This meant if Arsenal could beat Wigan on Highbury’s last day, they would snatch the coveted fourth spot.

Pires gave them an early lead but a Paul Scharner header and David Thompson free-kick, placed the visitors infront.

Step forward the King of Highbury Henry, who went onto score a hat-trick to seal a 4-2 victory and fourth spot. Time had run out on the famous ground but it went out with a bang.

In 2005-06, Chelsea continued their supremacy on the English game.

By Simon Wright – Follow me on Twitter @Siwri88

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