Red Devils Back on Top
The 1995-96 Premier League season marked the start of a 20-club division. Due to the league being cut from 22 to 20, only two clubs were promoted from the First Division the year before. After watching Blackburn Rovers win the Premier League the season before, Manchester United were back to their best, picking up their third Premier League title and a 10th English championship in total. Alex Ferguson’s Red Devils finished four points clear of Newcastle United after a thrilling title race, even if it was one many Newcastle fans may wish to forget.
United won the title, but it was a season of misery for the Premier League’s other Manchester club, as Alan Ball’s Manchester City were relegated on goal difference. Such things all seem a million miles away in the 21st century with City’s wealth and dominance but this was very much a campaign to forget for them. Bolton Wanderers suffered an instant return to the second tier, while Queens Park Rangers were also relegated. Coventry City and Southampton both stayed up on goal difference in what was an incredibly tight battle at the bottom.
Half Time / Full Time Result
|Score||Home Count||Away Count||Total||Percentage|
Over / Under
Man United Edge Out Newcastle in Exhilarating Title Race
For the majority of the season, Man United and Newcastle were involved in a two-horse race for the title. Liverpool and Aston Villa showed early promise, but both teams faded away, while Arsenal struggled to keep up with the pace at the top. Liverpool finished well clear of Villa in third, whilst the Gunners took fifth spot at the end of the campaign behind the Villans only on goal difference.
On New Year’s Day, Newcastle had a 12-point lead at the top of the table. Having beaten the Magpies five days before, Ferguson’s men crashed to a heavy 4-1 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane at the start of ’96. However, in typical Man United fashion, they would go on to lose just one more Premier League game all season, with Fergie deploying all the tricks in the mind games book to help his side overhaul the less experienced Geordies.
As Man United found some serious form, the pressure was starting to get to Kevin Keegan and his boys. A disastrous run of two wins, one draw and five defeats from eight opened the door for Man United. Three wins and two draws from their remaining five was not enough for Newcastle, as the Red Devils pipped them to the title by four points. Man United completed a domestic double shortly after, beating rivals Liverpool in the FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium thanks to a stunning strike from Eric Cantona.
For many fans this season is most memorable for Keegan’s famous/infamous “I will love it if we beat them rant” live on air. As said, Keegan’s Newcastle had what seemed an unassailable lead in the PL title race but the greater experience in the United camp, and dugout, ultimately told.
20 years ago today, Kevin Keegan went into meltdown… pic.twitter.com/buitJglw0X
— B/R Football (@brfootball) April 29, 2016
After seeing his side earn a very hard fought win over Leeds, Keegan was in emotional and combative mood. He was clearly incensed by a suggestion from Ferguson that Leeds might lie down for the Magpies given their great rivalry with United. Struggling to maintain control of his voice and emotions, the Newcastle boss said “We have not resorted to that, but I’ll tell you, you can tell him now if you’re watching it, we’re still fighting for this title, and he’s got to go to Middlesbrough and get something, and… and… I’ll tell you, honestly, I will love it if we beat them, love it!”
Rovers Finish Down in Seventh
Kenny Dalglish’s Blackburn Rovers caused a big upset, despite their vast Jack Walker-financed spending, when they won the 1994-95 Premier League title. However, just a month after that monumental achievement, Dalglish stepped down as manager at Ewood Park, with Ray Harford taking over. Despite a 1-0 win over QPR in game one, Rovers lost five of their opening eight and never really looked like making a serious fist of defending their crown.
Blackburn struggled to live up to their champions tag and went on to finish down in seventh spot. It was the lowest finish for a Premier League title winner until it was matched by Man United in 2014 and broken by Chelsea in 2016. Overall, the Blue and Whites picked up 18 wins, drew seven times and suffered 13 defeats to finish in seventh position on 61 points.
Strange Year for Boro
Middlesbrough were promoted from the First Division at the end of the 1994-95 season, and they started life in the Premier League in fine fettle. After five straight wins in September and October, Boro found themselves in the top four as their fans started to dream of glory.
They looked a good bet to be European contenders after a 4-2 home win over West Ham United two days before Christmas, but a horrendous run would follow. Boro went on to lose eight in a row and take just three points from their next 13 Premier League matches.
They also lost their last three league games of the season. Nevertheless, the newly promoted side ended up in 12th spot on a respectable 43 points, a finish their fans would surely have accepted before a ball was kicked.
Shearer Tops the Scoring Charts
Alan Shearer was involved in a big-money move to boyhood club Newcastle at the end of the season, but the England star would say goodbye to Ewood Park in the best possible way. Blackburn made a poor attempt of retaining their title, but Shearer was by far the best striker in the division this season.
Shearer bagged a staggering 31 Premier League goals, beating runner-up Robbie Fowler by three. Throughout the course of the campaign, Shearer netted hat-tricks against Coventry, Nottingham Forest, West Ham, Bolton and Tottenham. All of this set him up nicely for Euro 96 where his five goals saw him finish with the Golden Boot as the Three Lions made it to the semis on home soil.
Fellow England forward Fowler had an excellent season for Liverpool, helping himself to 28 league goals. Les Ferdinand scored 25 times for Newcastle and Shearer, Fowler and Ferdinand were a cut above the rest this term, with Shearer’s England partner Teddy Sheringham also bagging 17 in an era when the English national side really was blessed with some outstanding strikers. Dwight Yorke scored 16 PL goals and netted in the League Cup final as Aston Villa beat Leeds United. Chris Armstrong, Andrei Kanchelskis and Ian Wright all scored 15 each, Kanchelskis particularly impressive playing out wide for Everton who finished sixth.
Relegations & European Qualifications
Bolton struggled to adapt to life in the Premier League and suffered an instant return to the second tier. QPR were the second team to go, finishing on 33 points. Only three points separated Man City in 18th to Wimbledon all the way up in 14th. The Citizens went down on goal difference on the final day.
Man United won the league and were the only team to secure UEFA Champions League football for the 1996-97 season. All of the top five in the Premier League qualified for Europe, with Newcastle, Aston Villa and Arsenal entering the UEFA Cup. Liverpool were given a place in the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup after finishing runners-up in the FA Cup (to rivals Man United).
Which Teams Were Relegated?
Bolton suffered 25 defeats in 38 Premier League games and finished rock bottom of the table this season. After Bruce Rioch was signed up as Arsenal boss, Roy McFarland and Colin Todd became joint managers before a ball was kicked. Unfortunately, the pair could not keep the Trotters in the Premier League.
QPR went down under club favourite Ray Wilkins, with the London side winning just nine times all season. Rangers won three and lost three of their last six but finished five points away from safety in the end. A run of four losses from their opening five set the tone for a poor season ahead.
Man City were the third and final team to suffer the drop this season. They failed to beat Liverpool on the last day, drawing 2-2 with the Reds, which took them down on goal difference. They kept their hopes alive with wins over Sheffield Wednesday and Villa, and three points against Liverpool would have been enough. As it was their tally of 38 points was matched by both Southampton and Coventry but both of those sides finished with a goal difference that was seven better than City’s.
Which Teams Qualified For Europe?
Five clubs qualified for Europe at the end of the 1995-96 season, but only one for the most prestigious European competition.
Man United entered the Champions League group stage. With United also winning the FA Cup, Liverpool went into the first round of the Cup Winners’ Cup, a tournament that ceased to exist in 1999.
Aston Villa had a fine campaign, finishing in fourth, winning the League Cup and qualifying for the UEFA Cup.
Newcastle and Arsenal were the other sides to enter the 1996-97 UEFA Cup.