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Premier League flashback - 2008-09 review: Red Devils equal all-time league record

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.

Once again, Manchester United proved to be the ones to beat. They hunted down Liverpool and overtook them in January and hung on, despite excellent resistance from the side from Anfield.

It was the Red Devils third successive title and their 18th in history, equalling Liverpool’s all-time record.

After a messy year, Newcastle United lost their Premier League status. Even Geordie legend Alan Shearer, couldn’t save them from the drop.

It was a dismal year in the North East, with Middlesbrough going down too, along with West Brom.

CHAMPIONS: Manchester United

RUNNERS-UP: Liverpool


RELEGATED: Newcastle United, Middlesbrough, West Brom

TOP SCORERS: Nicolas Anelka (Chelsea) 19, Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United) 18, Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) 16, Fernando Torres (Liverpool) 14, Robinho (Manchester City) 14, Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) 12, Dirk Kuyt (Liverpool) 12, Frank Lampard (Chelsea) 12, Gabby Agbonlahor (Aston Villa) 12, Darren Bent (Tottenham Hotspur) 12, Kevin Davies (Bolton Wanderers) 12, Robin Van Persie (Arsenal) 11

BIGGEST WIN: Manchester City 6-0 Portsmouth (21 September 2008)

HIGHEST SCORING GAMES: Arsenal 4-4 Tottenham Hotspur (29 October 2008), Liverpool 4-4 Arsenal (21 April 2009), Manchester United 5-2 Tottenham Hotspur (25 April 2009)

PFA PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Ryan Giggs (Manchester United)

PFA YOUNG PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Ashley Young (Aston Villa)

For the second time in Premier League history, Manchester United managed to win three successive league titles.

A 0-0 draw at home to Arsenal on the final Saturday of the season, was enough to see them over the finishing line. They were pushed all the way by a much-improved Liverpool side, who recorded their highest ever Premier League points tally, on the way to second spot.

New managers included Luiz Felipe Scolari taking over at Chelsea, whilst Mark Hughes became manager of Manchester City and Paul Ince was promoted to the Blackburn job, after a great time as boss of Milton Keynes Dons.

In the transfer market, Liverpool paid Tottenham Hotspur £20.3m for Robbie Keane and also acquired the services of Spanish midfielder Albert Riera and Italian left back, Andrea Dossena.

Leaving Anfield was Harry Kewell, who joined Galatasaray, Peter Crouch moved to Portsmouth, Steve Finnan headed to Espanyol and John Arne Riise switched to AS Roma.

Scolari tried to stamp his authority on the squad, paying FC Porto £16.2m for Jose Boswinga and Deco arrived from Barcelona.

To compensate, Andriy Shevchenko moved on loan back to AC Milan and Steve Sidwell was sold to Aston Villa for £5m.

Tottenham Hotspur splashed £16.5m out for Luka Modric from Dinamo Zagreb, Arsenal spent £5m on Aaron Ramsay, Bolton snapped up Fabrice Muamba for the same fee from Birmingham City and newly promoted Stoke broke their club record for Dave Kitson.

The biggest transfer news happened on deadline day, when the Abu Dhabi United Group purchased Manchester City, turning them into one of the richest clubs in world football.

They managed to tempt Robinho to these shores, for £32.5m from Real Madrid but despite making a late bid for Dimitar Berbatov, lost out on the Bulgarian, as Manchester United forked out £30.75m for the striker from Tottenham.

Scolari starts well

The Scolari era started brilliantly, with a very impressive 4-0 victory over Portsmouth on the opening weekend, capped up by a fine debut strike from Deco.

The Blues set the pace in the early months of the campaign, with Liverpool and Manchester United close behind.

United did make a stuttering start, as they were held at Old Trafford by Newcastle United. The Magpies parted company with Kevin Keegan before the end of the month however, with Joe Kinnear making a return to management.

Another manager who left was Alan Curbishley, resigning from his post as West Ham boss after just three games. Curbishley was annoyed that the board, had accepted a bid for Anton Ferdinand from Sunderland, without his consultation.

Gabriel Agbonlahor was developing into one of the hottest talents in Premier League football and he started the season on fire. The Aston Villa striker struck a hat-trick as they beat Manchester City 4-2 on the opening weekend.

The first main head-to-head of the season, was at Anfield in September, as Liverpool faced Manchester United.

Berbatov set-up an early goal for Carlos Tevez but the home side were level, after a catastrophic mix-up between Wes Brown and the usually reliable Edwin van der Sar. Substitute Ryan Babel came off the bench to strike the winning goal.

Robinho made an instant impact on his debut, as he scored a free-kick for his new club against Chelsea, who had been seriously interested in his services during the summer.

Scolari’s side recovered to win 3-1, although Manchester City bounced back a week later, to thrash Portsmouth 6-0, recording the biggest victory of the season in the process.

A major upset occurred at the Emirates on the final Saturday in September. Hull City came from behind to beat Arsenal 2-1, helped by a wonderful strike from unpredictable Brazilian, Geovanni.

Ramos is finished

Tottenham travelled to Stoke City in mid-October, with boss Juande Ramos under huge pressure.

They experienced a nightmare afternoon, with both Gareth Bale and Michael Dawson being sent off and Vedran Corluka left the Britannia Stadium, via an ambulance.

Rory Delap scored the winner in a 2-1 victory for the home side, leaving Ramos’s side at the bottom of the table, with just two points from eight games.

He was sacked six days later and Harry Redknapp decided to leave Portsmouth, to take over at White Hart Lane.

Redknapp’s impact was instant, as Tottenham produced a remarkable fightback at Arsenal in the North London derby.

David Bentley scored a superb goal in the first ten minutes and strikes from Jermaine Jenas and Aaron Lennon in stoppage time, saw them recover from 4-2 down, to rescue a 4-4 draw.

Elsewhere in London, Chelsea’s unbeaten home record ended, as a deflected Xabi Alonso effort helped Liverpool to a 1-0 success. The West Londoners run had stretched to 86 games, over four years and eight months.

The Reds were now top of the table, from Chelsea and Hull City, whose amazing start continued. A 3-0 win at West Brom had them briefly joint top.

Arsenal’s defensive fallibilities were brutally exposed in November, as they lost 2-1 to the new set piece specialists, Stoke and had Robin van Persie sent off.

They then lost 2-0 at home to Aston Villa and were beaten 3-0 by Manchester City, to all but end any title tilt for another season.

Despite this, an inspired performance from Samir Nasri did help the Gunners to a morale boosting 2-1 triumph over Manchester United, with the Frenchman scoring both goals.

More managers feel the heat

A dreadful 4-1 home defeat to Bolton Wanderers, prompted Roy Keane to quit Sunderland, as the Black Cats struggled all season, in a relegation battle.

Another former Manchester United player to find it difficult in top flight management was Paul Ince.

His club Blackburn Rovers were in the bottom three for the majority of his time in charge and a 3-0 loss at Wigan in December saw his six month reign end.

Ricky Sbragia was given the Sunderland job and inspired the club to one of their best victories of the season, a 4-1 showing at the KC Stadium against Hull City.

On the same afternoon, Sam Allardyce returned to management with Blackburn and three first half goals, helped them to a 3-0 victory against Stoke City.

Another manager feeling the heat was Tony Adams. The Arsenal legend had succeeded Redknapp at Portsmouth but was struggling to keep the club’s revival going.

They lost 4-1 at home to West Ham United on Boxing Day and Adams would be dismissed in February, after registering just ten Premier League points in 16 games. Paul Hart was handed the job.

After their great start, Hull began to show the pace and looked lost on Boxing Day at Manchester City.

Trailing 4-0 at half-time, manager Phil Brown lost his cool and ranted at his players, by conducting the team talk infront of the away supporters and the many TV cameras present.

After a highly impressive 5-1 battering of Newcastle United at St. James Park, Liverpool entered 2009 with a three point lead over Chelsea, with Stoke, Blackburn and West Brom in the bottom three.

Van der Sar breaks clean sheet record

On 27 January 2009, Edwin Van der Sar kept a clean sheet in Manchester United’s 5-0 victory away at struggling West Brom.

This meant he broke the Premier League clean sheet record, which now stood at 11 games and 1,032 minutes, beating Petr Cech’s mark during the 2004-05 campaign.

He eventually made it through to the beginning of March without conceding, at 1,311 minutes, which set a new world record for consecutive minutes without conceding.

As Liverpool blew their points lead, Rafa Benitez ranted in a press conference about referees and how they favoured Manchester United.

He said: “We had a Respect campaign meeting and I said forget it, because Mr. Ferguson is killing the referees. I am not playing mind games, I am talking about facts.”

On the pitch, Frank Lampard was sent off and two late goals from Fernando Torres, allowed Liverpool to beat Chelsea 2-0 in early February.

After a disappointing 0-0 draw at home to Hull, Scolari had lost the fans support at Stamford Bridge, the dressing room and Roman Abramovich took great pleasure in sacking him. His close friend, Guus Hiddink took charge until the end of the season.

In the transfer window, Robbie Keane’s miserable spell at Liverpool came to an end, as Tottenham bought him back for £12m.

Harry Redknapp also bought Jermain Defoe back from Portsmouth for £15m and after a 1-1 draw with his former side, he slammed Darren Bent for missing a host of great chances.

He said: “You will never get a better chance to win a match than that. My missus could have scored that one.” Bent was finished as a Tottenham player.

Elsewhere in the transfer window, Manchester City bought Craig Bellamy, Emile Heskey was sold by Wigan to Aston Villa, Jimmy Bullard made a surprising £5m switch to Hull, Kevin Nolan swapped Bolton for Newcastle in a £4m deal and Arsenal acquired talented Russian, Andriy Arshavin from Zenit St. Petersburg.

Liverpool crank the pressure on

When Liverpool slipped to a surprising 2-0 defeat away at Middlesbrough at the end of February, they fell seven points behind Manchester United.

United’s form after winning the FIFA World Club Championship had been hugely impressive, whilst Benitez’s side had only won two games from seven since the turn of the year.

When the sides met at Old Trafford on 14 March, Liverpool had to win and came off the back of an impressive demolition of Real Madrid in the Champions League.

Cristiano Ronaldo put the Red Devils infront, courtesy of a penalty but Nemanja Vidic’s misjudgement of a long ball, enabled Torres to rob him of possession and dispatch the equaliser.

Steven Gerrard gave the visitors a deserved half-time lead and Alan Wiley sent Vidic off in the second half, for pulling Gerrard down in a goalscoring position. The Serbian had also been dismissed in the corresponding fixture, earlier in the season.

Fabio Aurelio curled in the free-kick brilliantly to make it 3-1 and in stoppage time, misfit Dossena lobbed an advancing Van der Sar to complete a mauling on Manchester for the champions.

That 4-1 win shook the Premier League and eight days later, a fading Aston Villa side were torn apart 5-0 at Anfield, with Gerrard scoring his first Premier League hat-trick.

Manchester United’s lead had shrunk to just a single point, after they lost 2-0 at Fulham and had Wayne Rooney dismissed in stoppage time. Their crown was under threat.

After Joe Kinnear suffered health problems, Newcastle turned to club legend Alan Shearer, who swapped the BBC Match of the Day sofa, for one of the toughest jobs in football. Could he save them?

Under Hiddink, Chelsea found some more consistent form but a 1-0 loss to improving Tottenham, dashed any outside hopes they had of making the title race, a three-way battle.

Introducing Federico Macheda

After Liverpool went top, following a stoppage time winner from Yossi Benayoun away at Fulham, Manchester United looked in desperate trouble at home to Aston Villa.

They trailed 2-1 in the second half, when young Italian striker, Federico Macheda was introduced to the action.

Ronaldo made it 2-2 and then with moments remaining on the clock, Macheda twisted past Luke Young and launched an astonishing strike past the despairing Brad Friedel.

He was only 17-years-old, it was his first team debut and his impact, must have made Liverpool fans sick across the globe.

Two weeks later, Reds supporters had nightmares about another new introduction to English football.

Russian Andriy Arshavin produced a mesmerising performance at Anfield, scoring all four of Arsenal’s goals, as they stole a point from Merseyside, in an entertaining 4-4 draw.

Macheda had scored again, a winner at Sunderland, before the Red Devils produced the comeback of the season.

They trailed 2-0 to Tottenham at half-time in late April but with some decisive finishing and shambolic defending from the visitors, recovered to win 5-2.

Despite regular victories in the latter part of the season, it was too late for Liverpool and Ferguson’s side held on.

A 0-0 draw with Arsenal on the final Saturday of the season meant they won their 18th league championship, equalling Liverpool’s total. Four points was the final gap.

Newcastle and Middlesbrough depart

The first team relegated were West Brom, who went down on the penultimate weekend, losing 2-0 at home to Liverpool.

On the final day, Sunderland, Hull City, Newcastle United and Middlesbrough were the clubs fighting for survival.

The two Tyneside clubs were favourites to drop out of the league and that ultimately happened.

Middlesbrough lost at West Ham and a Damien Duff own goal consigned Newcastle to a 1-0 defeat at Aston Villa.

Sunderland and Hull both lost too on the final day, at home to Chelsea and Manchester United respectively.

Despite only one win in their last 17 games and Phil Brown’s horrific singing after the final whistle at the KC Stadium, Hull beat the drop and Newcastle’s 16 year stay in England’s top flight was over.

Shearer returned to BBC duty and Ricky Sbragia quit, taking a scouting role at Sunderland, as the Black Cats set about targeting Wigan manager, Steve Bruce as their next boss.

Meanwhile, Chelsea finished third and won the FA Cup; Arsenal took the final Champions League spot after Aston Villa collapsed in the run-in and dropped from third in late January, to sixth. Tottenham improved to eighth, one place behind Fulham, who had their best ever campaign in the top flight.

The battle for the 2008-09 title had been close and at times, personal, between two footballing cities who don’t like each other. Despite Liverpool’s best efforts, they once again remained in the shadow of Manchester United.

By Simon Wright – Follow me on Twitter @Siwri88

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