Greatest Premier League title races: Man Utd vs Arsenal, Man City vs Liverpool & the best division battles

The Premier League has conjured up some magical moments since being rebranded in 1992 and we have seen plenty of title rivalries develop

Liverpool’s intense battle with Manchester City for the Premier League title has made the 2018-19 season a much more competitive affair than its predecessor.

Jurgen Klopp is still looking to win his first trophy as manager of the Anfield outfit and a league triumph – ending a near-three-decade-long wait for the club – would be a delightful achievement.

His Reds side are putting it up to Pep Guardiola’s record-breaking City side, who are the defending champions, while Tottenham are outside challengers as well.

The league is primed for an interesting few months as the season heads towards a finale and, with that in mind, Goal has taken a look at some of the best Premier League title races.

Manchester United beat Blackburn Rovers to the Premier League title in 1993-94, finishing eight points ahead of Kenny Dalglish’s side, but the Lancashire outfit made sure it was a closer affair the following season.

The acquisition of Chris Sutton from Norwich City was a shrewd piece of business as the then-21-year-old struck up a fruitful partnership with Alan Shearer, with the pair scoring 49 league goals between them.

Alex Ferguson’s side were dealt a blow in January when Eric Cantona was banned for eight months for assaulting a Crystal Palace fan and the loss of their talismanic force undoubtedly affected their campaign.

There were just two points between the sides heading into the final game of the season, with Blackburn narrowly leading the way.

United needed to win at West Ham and hope that Blackburn would lose or draw against Liverpool.

Shearer put Blackburn ahead after 20 minutes at Anfield with his 34th goal of the season, but John Barnes hauled the Reds level mid-way through the second half.

Liverpool then took control of the game and Jamie Redknapp struck in the last minute to grant his side a 2-1 victory.

Blackburn were subsequently forced to endure an anxious wait to find out whether or not they would be crowned champions.

Luckily for Dalglish’s men, United could only muster a 1-1 draw against the Hammers, meaning the title was on its way to Ewood Park. It was their first league title since 1914.

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The 1995-96 Premier League season will go down in history for one of the greatest comebacks – or capitulations, depending on how you see it – in the history of English football.

It was a battle of Uniteds – Manchester and Newcastle – which culminated in a now-infamous televised rant from Kevin Keegan in response to comments made by Red Devils boss Ferguson.

Keegan’s Newcastle team, which contained stars such as David Ginola, Faustino Asprilla and Les Ferdinand, were dubbed ‘The Entertainers’ due to their swashbuckling style of play and they had opened a 12-point lead at the top by January.

However, while the Red Devils began to hit their stride in the new year, going on a 12-game unbeaten run, Newcastle developed a habit of losing and, following a home defeat to Ferguson’s side in March, just a single point separated them.

Though they bounced back from the defeat to Man United with a win over West Ham, Newcastle subsequently lost 2-0 to Arsenal and then 4-3 to fellow challengers Liverpool – a game which is widely regarded as spelling the end of the Magpies’ hopes.

They beat Queens Park Rangers in the following match, but a 2-1 loss to Blackburn Rovers, who scored their two goals in the last 10 minutes of the game, meant that Newcastle were left trailing Manchester United by six points with just five games left to play.

As if to cap the sensational on-field meltdown, Keegan produced his infamous “I will love it!” outburst after Newcastle beat Leeds United in the third last game of the season.

Manchester United had played Leeds the week before, winning 1-0, but Ferguson’s comments after the game, which suggested that the Leeds players had not tried hard enough, were construed as being an attempt to draw an even better performance from the Elland Road outfit against Newcastle.

“When you do that with footballers like he said about Leeds, and when you do things like that about a man like Stuart Pearce…” an irate Keegan said on Sky Sports.

“I’ve kept really quiet but I’ll tell you something, he went down in my estimations when he said that.

“We have not resorted to that. You can tell him now, we’re still fighting for this title and he’s got to go to Middlesbrough and get something.

“And I’ll tell you, honestly, I will love it if we beat them. Love it.

“But it really has got to me. I’ve voiced it live, not in front of the press or anywhere. I’m not even going to the press conference.

“But the battle is still on and Man United have not won this yet.”

Unfortunately for Keegan, Man United did win it. By four points.

The Arsenal-Manchester United rivalry as we know it today began in earnest during the 1997-98 season – Arsene Wenger’s first term in charge – and the two sides served up a dramatic title race.

Having started the season by going 12 games unbeaten, the Gunners began to falter in November, losing three of four games that month – their only win, interestingly, coming against United.

Wenger’s side rediscovered their form heading into the new year, but still found themselves trailing Ferguson’s men by 11 points in March with just nine games to go.

However, the fact that they beat United for the second time in the season that month – this time at Old Trafford – marked a turning point in the race.

With the likes of Dennis Bergkamp, Marc Overmars and Emmanuel Petit shining, Arsenal strung together 10 straight wins and their 4-0 win over Everton in May secured the title with two games to spare.

Man United and Arsenal rekindled their rivalry the following season in 1998-99, with the Red Devils coming out on top this time in what was a tight race for glory.

A Gianluca Vialli-led Chelsea, featuring the likes of Gustavo Poyet and Gianfranco Zola, joined United and the Gunners in the race too, pushing right until the final weeks of the campaign.

Despite losing to Arsenal early in the season and then drawing against them at Old Trafford in the second half of the campaign, United were relentless and won the title on the final day.

Arsenal’s narrow 1-0 loss to Leeds in the penultimate game of the season meant that the Red Devils’ fate was in their own hands heading into the last game against Tottenham.

Spurs striker Les Ferdinand hadn’t read the script though and his opener left the Old Trafford faithful feeling nervous, but goals from David Beckham and Andy Cole ensured victory.

Just a point separated United from the Gunners, with Chelsea trailing by three points in third.

It was United’s fifth Premier League title in seven years and one of their best ever seasons as they won a famous treble, which included the FA Cup and the Champions League.

By the turn of the millennium, it was an inevitability that Manchester United and Arsenal would be leading the way in the race for the title.

The 2002-03 campaign saw a fascinating sequence of events as the Red Devils pulled off a remarkable comeback to clinch the silverware.

Arsenal were reigning champions, having finished seven points clear of Liverpool the previous season, and United finished third – 10 points behind Wenger’s side.

By March, it looked like Arsenal had the title in the bag thanks to an eight-point lead that they had established.

However, the Gunners floundered thereafter, losing to Blackburn Rovers and Leeds United, as well as dropping points against Aston Villa, Bolton and United.

Ferguson’s side, on the other hand, powered by the goals of Ruud van Nistelrooy, won nine of their last 10 games and ultimately finished the season five points ahead of Arsenal.

The 2007-08 campaign produced a scintillating three-way race for the Premier League title, with Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal leading the charge.

Just four points separated champions United from third-place Arsenal at the end of the season, with Ferguson’s men securing glory on the final day of the campaign.

The Red Devils actually lost more games than Chelsea and Arsenal, suffering five defeats all season, but the London sides ultimately drew too many games.

It even took United four games to register a victory at the start of the season, but, with Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez leading their attack, they easily outscored all their rivals.

United and Chelsea were level on 84 points heading into the final gameweek and Ferguson’s side showed their nerve by beating Wigan Athletic, while Chelsea could only draw with Bolton.

The United-Chelsea rivalry even extended to the Champions League that season, with the Red Devils also beating the Blues in the final of the competition.

In the 2009-10 Premier League season, Chelsea got their revenge on United by pulling off their own last-gasp title win.

The Red Devils were three-time defending champions, but the Blues were now being led by a proven winner in Carlo Ancelotti, who implemented an attacking brand of play not seen at the club in a number of years.

Chelsea defeated United twice in the season and they were one point ahead of Ferguson’s side going into the final week.

They clinched the title in resounding fashion by beating Wigan Athletic 8-0, a result which padded their ‘goals for’ tally out to what was then a record 103 (since surpassed by Manchester City’s 106 in 2017-18).


That was the memorable cry of commentator Martin Tyler as Sergio Aguero’s injury-time goal clinched the Premier League title for Manchester City at the expense of their city rivals Manchester United.

The 2011-12 title race went right down to the wire and was actually decided by goal difference as City and United each finished the season with 89 points.

United had set the pace in the first half of the season, but City eventually took the lead in October and remained in front until March. They fell behind again when a run of poor form coincided with a Red Devils winning streak, which allowed their rivals back on top.

The sides were locked level going into the last week of the season. City had a home game against Queens Park Rangers, while United were away to Sunderland.

Ferguson’s side defeated the Black Cats 1-0 at the Stadium of Light, with Wayne Rooney scoring the decisive goal, and, as their game finished, City’s encounter with QPR crept into extra time.

Roberto Mancini’s team were being held to a 2-2 draw at that point and United were closing in on their 20th league title, but a last-minute strike changed everything.

“Aguerooooo…” Tyler roared on the Sky Sports commentary in response. “I swear you’ll never see anything like this ever again. So watch it, drink it in.”

The 2013-14 season is an agonising one for Liverpool fans as they saw their side relinquish a seemingly unassailable lead in the final weeks of the campaign, allowing Manchester City to win the league.

As well as City and Liverpool, Chelsea – under the guidance of returning hero Jose Mourinho – were also in the mix for the English crown.

Brendan Rodgers looked to have Liverpool on course for their first league title since 1990 and they led the way with just two weeks left on the calendar.

However, they endured a catastrophic collapse in their two of their final three games, losing at home against title rivals Chelsea before being held to a 3-3 draw against Crystal Palace. Those results effectively handed the title to City, who won each of their remaining fixtures.

The Reds had actually defeated Man City at Anfield in April, after which club captain Steven Gerrard could be heard declaring to his team-mates, “This does not fucking slip now. This does not fucking slip. Listen! We go to Norwich, exactly the same. We go again.”

While they did defeat Norwich in the following game, it turned out to be an unfortunate choice of words for Gerrard though as he literally slipped during the subsequent game against Chelsea, allowing Demba Ba through on goal to score the opener in the crushing 2-0 defeat.