United Edge Out Gunners in Title Race
At the end of the 1998-99 Premier League campaign, Manchester United sealed a fifth title in seven seasons and continued to assert their authority on England’s top division. The Red Devils were solid all season long, losing just three league games. It was a memorable year for Alex Ferguson’s men as they completed a unique treble, winning the Premier League, the FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League. United pipped rivals Arsenal to the title by just one point, while Chelsea were only four points behind in third place in the table.
Leeds United and West Ham United both had fine seasons and finished in fourth and fifth respectively. Liverpool ended their campaign down in seventh position in the table, while Tottenham Hotspur finished in the bottom half of the table but still qualified for Europe after winning the League Cup.
The three relegated teams were Nottingham Forest, Blackburn Rovers and Charlton Athletic. Middlesbrough, who finished ninth, were the only newly promoted club to stay in the Premier League this term. The season was the 100th of top-flight football in England and the seventh since the Premier League was established.
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Terrific Treble for the Red Devils
Man United beat Arsenal to the line by just one point to win their 12th English title. They dominated the early years of the Premier League, with this being their fifth win in seven seasons. United finished the previous season with no trophies, but Ferguson’s men more than made up for it in the 1998-99 campaign. In the league, Man United won 22, drew 13 and lost just three games to finish on a respectable total of 79 points.
United also went all the way in the FA Cup this season. After wins over Middlesbrough, Liverpool, Fulham and Chelsea, they went up against Arsenal at Villa Park. After a 0-0 draw, the pair met again at the same venue three days later in a memorable replay, with the Red Devils running out 2-1 winners after extra time. In the final, goals from Teddy Sheringham and Paul Scholes earned them a 2-0 win over Newcastle United.
United’s most dramatic win of the season came in the 1999 Champions League final at the Camp Nou in Barcelona. United went a goal down early on against German giants Bayern Munich, with Mario Basler scoring just six minutes into the encounter. The Germans missed several good chances to extend their lead and they were made to pay for it. As the game went into injury time, Man United came alive. Sheringham levelled in the 91st minute before Ole Gunnar Solskjaer won it in the most spectacular fashion just two minutes later. It was the club’s first European success since 1968 (when Matt Busby’s team, that contained Bobby Charlton, George Best and Nobby Stiles among others, beat Portuguese side Benfica 4-1 at Wembley in the final).
Gunners & Blues Push United Close
Along with Man United, Arsenal also picked up 22 Premier League wins this season. However, one more defeat proved to be fatal for the Gunners. A 1-0 loss to Leeds on the penultimate weekend pretty much handed the championship to Man United, who went on to beat Tottenham 2-1 at Old Trafford on the final day. The defeat to Leeds was Arsenal’s first league reverse in 20 matches and only their fourth of the whole campaign, but it proved decisive in the context of the race for the title.
Chelsea also had a fine campaign, with Gianluca Vialli guiding the Blues to third position in the table and a place in the Champions League third qualifying round. Chelsea stayed in the title race all season, winning six and drawing four of their final 10 games. However, the Londoners came up short in the end, finishing four points adrift of champions Man United and three points behind runners-up Arsenal despite only losing three league games all season.
Hammers the Best of the Rest
Man United, Arsenal and Chelsea were in a three-horse race for the title, while Leeds finished in fourth on 67 points. Those four were well clear of the chasing pack, but West Ham were certainly the best of the rest during the 1998-99 season. Under the popular boss Harry Redknapp, the Hammers picked up 16 wins, drew nine times and lost 13 games over the course of the season.
Their total of 57 points was enough for a fifth-place finish, which was their highest league position for 13 years. As a result, the east Londoners booked their spot in the 1999-00 Intertoto Cup third round. West Ham made sure of fifth with an emphatic 4-0 home victory over Middlesbrough on the last day, with Frank Lampard, Marc Keller, Trevor Sinclair and Paolo Di Canio getting the goals at Upton Park.
Hasselbaink, Owen & Yorke Share Golden Boot
The battle for the Premier League’s Golden Boot was one of the tightest in Premier League history. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Michael Owen and Dwight Yorke all scored 18 goals to share the award. Nicolas Anelka and Andy Cole both netted 17 goals.
Hamilton Ricard had a fine campaign for newly promoted Boro, helping himself to 15 goals. Dion Dublin, Robbie Fowler, Julian Joachim and Alan Shearer all bagged 14. The top 10 scorers this season were separated by just four goals, further accentuating the closeness of the battle to be the top scorer, but also showing how no single striker was able to assert himself and get ahead of his rivals as has happened in many other seasons.
Relegations & European Qualifications
Nottingham Forest, Charlton and Middlesbrough were all promoted from the second tier at the end of the previous season. Forest and the Addicks suffered an instant return to the Football League, while Middlesbrough were the only side to survive. Boro were excellent under the stewardship of former England captain Bryan Robson, collecting 51 points and finishing in ninth position in the table. Blackburn were the other club to drop down to the First Division, just four years after winning the Premier League title.
Three Champions League places were up for grabs this year. Man United, Arsenal and Chelsea qualified for Europe’s elite club competition, while fourth-placed Leeds took the UEFA Cup spot. Tottenham and Newcastle were also awarded places in the UEFA Cup, and West Ham went into the Intertoto Cup.
Which Teams Were Relegated?
Nottingham Forest struggled after winning promotion and suffered an instant return to the second tier. During the campaign, the Reds suffered a humiliating 8-1 home loss to Man United. Ron Atkinson took over from the sacked Dave Bassett in January, but Forest went down on 30 points after seven wins, nine draws and 22 defeats. This was despite a strong finish to the campaign when they won their last three matches… but it was too little, too late to keep them in the division.
Blackburn’s fall from grace was compounded as they finished second from bottom and were relegated at the end of the 1998-99 season. Just four years earlier, Rovers were Premier League champions under Kenny Dalglish. Over the course of the season, Roy Hodgson, Tony Parkes and Brian Kidd all had spells in charge. Blackburn were six points adrift of safety in the end and their fall from grace showed how tough things can be at the top of English football.
Like Forest, Charlton also suffered an instant return to the second tier. The Addicks had a real go under Alan Curbishley but they only managed to muster eight wins over the course of the season which cost them dearly in the end. After successive victories over Wimbledon, Liverpool and Derby County in February, Charlton went on to win just two of their remaining 12 games.
Which Teams Qualified For Europe?
As mentioned, Man United and Arsenal booked their spots in the Champions League and we entered into the first group stage, while Chelsea entered the third qualifying round.
After finishing in fourth place in the Premier League, Leeds United were awarded a place in the 1999-00 UEFA Cup.
Tottenham were the League Cup winners, while Newcastle were the FA Cup runners-up and thus both sides qualified for the UEFA Cup as a result.
Redknapp’s West Ham United earned a spot in the Intertoto Cup after finishing in fifth place.