Man United Edge Out Liverpool in Thrilling Title Race
Manchester United won the 2008-09 Premier League, picking up their 11th PL title and 18th English top flight crown. Liverpool pushed them close, but United held their nerve to win the league by four points. Chelsea also had a solid season, picking up 83 points and finishing in third spot. Arsenal took the fourth and final UEFA Champions League position.
Newcastle United were ever-presents in the Premier League after winning promotion in 1993, but the Magpies were relegated to the EFL Championship after a horrid campaign in the top flight. Fellow North East club Middlesbrough, and West Bromwich Albion also suffered the heartache of relegation. Hull City, in what was their first appearance in the Premier League, survived by just one point.
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United Keep Their Nerve
Alex Ferguson and his successful Man United team were no strangers to title battles, but they had new challengers in the 2008-09 season in the shape of Rafa Benitez’s exciting Liverpool outfit. The Reds pushed the Red Devils close, finishing just four points behind the eventual champions. Benitez’s boys suffered only two league defeats all season, but too many draws proved to be their Achilles heel. Only Arsenal, Everton and Newcastle drew more than their total of 11 games.
Ferguson’s United picked up 28 wins, drawing six and losing four of the other 10. The Manchester giants actually made a poor start, taking a mere five points from a possible 12 early on. After a heavy 4-1 home defeat to Liverpool and a 2-0 loss to Fulham in successive matches in March, Man United looked second favourites to win the league. However, in typical fashion, they ended their season with eight wins and a draw from nine to get their hands on the Premier League trophy for an 11th time. United also won the League Cup and were Champions League runners-up in what was a fine campaign for them, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney beginning to form a brilliant partnership.
Toffees the Best of the Rest
At the time, Man United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal were considered as the big four in the Premier League, with the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, Aston Villa and Everton just behind, while Man City’s push into the elite had yet to take off.
Although the Toffees were well off the pace in terms of breaking into the Champions League places, David Moyes’ men were the best of the rest in the Premier League in the 2008-09 season.
Everton, who also finished fifth the season before, picked up 17 wins, drew 12 times and suffered just nine defeats. Only the top four won more and lost fewer. The Merseyside Blues made a poor start to their season, winning just two of their opening 12 league and cup matches.
However, they finished strongly to secure fifth, winning three and drawing one of their last four Premier League games. Everton also reached the FA Cup final, narrowly losing to Chelsea at Wembley Stadium despite Louis Saha opening the scoring in the first minute.
Newcastle’s Long Stay Comes to an End
During the early years of the Premier League, Newcastle had some memorable moments, producing some scintillating football at times and even coming close to winning the title. However, the 2008-09 season was one to forget for the Magpies, as they were relegated to the second tier with just 34 points to their name. Overall, United won seven, drew 13 and lost 18, scoring 40 and shipping 59 along the way.
Throughout the season, Kevin Keegan, Joe Kinnear and Alan Shearer all had spells in charge at St James’ Park, but none of them managed to turn the club’s fortunes around. Shearer was a Newcastle legend as a player, but they were relegated under his stewardship on the final day, losing 1-0 to Aston Villa at Villa Park.
Memorable Year for Hull
Hull City were promoted via the Championship play-offs in 2008, sealing their spot in the Premier League for the first ever time. Phil Brown worked wonders in East Yorkshire, as the Tigers settled into Premier League life with real aplomb.
Hull kicked off their season in stunning style, winning six of their opening nine, suffering just one defeat along the way. They won 2-1 at the Emirates Stadium and picked up a 1-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane. A 3-0 win at West Bromwich Albion on 25th October took them to the Premier League’s summit and had their fans in raptures.
That would very much be as good as it would get for them though and they would go on to win just two more Premier League games this season, as the rigours of Premier League football caught up with them. Still, despite taking just one point from the last 21 on offer, Hull survived on the last day of the season. With Stoke City also staying up, it was the first time since the 2005-06 campaign that more than one promoted side stayed in the top tier.
Anelka Finishes Top of the Scoring Charts
Nicolas Anelka had a fine season for Chelsea, scoring 19 times to win the Golden Boot, albeit with a total somewhat lower than we often see. The Frenchman beat the likes of Man United’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard to the crown. Gerrard was among six Englishmen to finish in the top 10, netting 16 league goals from midfield.
Big-money signing Robinho made a positive impact at Man City, netting 14 times to finish in joint fourth. Aston Villa’s Gabriel Agbonlahor, who scored a seven-minute hat-trick against City, ended his season with a respectable 12, alongside Rooney and Frank Lampard (among others).
Relegations & European Qualifications
Promoted Stoke and Hull stayed up, with the Potters finishing in 12th under the popular Tony Pulis. Stoke’s aggressive and direct style was new to the Premier League and worked well for the Potters. Hull made a tremendous start but survived by the skin of their teeth after a woeful run at the end. West Brom, who won the 2007-08 Championship, finished bottom of the pile.
Man United, Liverpool and Chelsea were the top three and qualified for the Champions League. Fulham took the final UEFA Europa League spot by securing a seventh-place finish under the experienced Roy Hodgson, a brilliant achievement given the size of the club.
Which Teams Were Relegated?
In what was a very tight relegation battle, West Brom finished bottom of the Premier League on goal difference. The Championship champions had a real go under Tony Mowbray but suffered 22 defeats, which was the most in the division. They picked up wins over Man City and Tottenham, but their stay in the top flight lasted just one season as they finished with 32 points and a goal difference of -31.
Middlesbrough were only kept off the bottom by goal difference, also securing 32 points but having a goal difference of -29. Boro stuck with Gareth Southgate all season, but the Teessiders, who were UEFA Cup finalists in 2006, dropped into the Championship. Middlesbrough picked up just seven wins all year.
Newcastle were relegated on the final day due to a 1-0 loss at Villa. Hull were beaten by Man United, but the Magpies needed to beat the Villans to overhaul the Tigers. United picked up the joint fewest wins and suffered 18 defeats in what was a forgettable season on Tyneside. With just four points separating the bottom five this was a really tense battle at the bottom, with Sunderland finishing 16th and just about avoiding an unwanted relegation trifecta for the North East.
Which Teams Qualified For Europe?
Man United, Liverpool and Chelsea qualified for the 2009-10 Champions League via their Premier League positions.
Arsenal took fourth and made it to the play-off round of Europe’s elite club competition with the top four well clear of the chasing pack.
Everton finished fifth, nine points adrift of the Gunners and fully 20 behind their FA Cup conquerors Chelsea.
Aston Villa ended a point behind, with both teams qualifying for the inaugural Europa League as a result.
Fulham finished seventh to take the last Europa League place. The following season, the Cottagers would reach the final, losing to Spanish side Atletico Madrid in Hamburg.