1999-2000: United stroll it
|Champions||Manchester United||Biggest Win||Newcastle United 8-0 Sheffield Wednesday|
|Runners-Up||Arsenal||Highest Scoring Game||West Ham United 5-4 Bradford City|
|Third Place||Leeds United||Top Goalscorer||Kevin Phillips (30)|
|Relegated||Wimbledon, Sheffield Wednesday, Watford||Goals Scored||1060|
The eighth season of the Premier League provided plenty of goals and stories but ultimately, no serious title race. Manchester United enjoyed their most dominant campaign, strolling to a sixth title with a record points total in the process. The Red Devils’ lost just three league games all season, went undefeated all campaign at Old Trafford and finished a whopping 18 points clear of Arsenal.
The manager was knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List and Sir Alex Ferguson didn’t need to make sweeping changes to his treble-winning squad. Only Mark Bosnich was added in the summer to replace the departing Peter Schmeichel. Bosnich was very unconvincing and had to share goalkeeping duties. However, United’s mean defence and powerful attack meant few teams gave them many issues.
There was a painful afternoon at Stamford Bridge in October, losing 5-0 to Chelsea. That was the high point of the Blues’ season. A lack of discipline and inconsistency meant they struggled to match the previous season’s achievements. Fifth place and FA Cup final victory was their final result.
The biggest threat to Manchester United came from Yorkshire and David O’Leary’s promising Leeds United side. Leeds led the table at Christmas, playing a brand of exciting and enthralling football. Their season though turned into tragedy in April. Two supporters were stabbed and died after an incident on the streets of Istanbul before a UEFA Cup semi-final with Galatasaray. Leeds were united in grief and it seemed to mentally affect the players. They slipped out of the top two but a final day draw at Upton Park was enough to secure a top-three finish and a place in the UEFA Champions League for 2000-2001.
Therefore, Arsenal finished distant runners-up. There were more disciplinary issues for Arsene Wenger. For spitting at Neil Ruddock in defeat at West Ham United in October, Patrick Vieira was banned for seven games by the FA. Wenger did sign Thierry Henry though from Juventus and by the end of the season, the Frenchman started to look like the real deal at Highbury.
Top scorer was Kevin Phillips. In his maiden top-flight campaign, he joined Shearer and Andy Cole in an exclusive club of players who had scored 30 goals in a Premier League season. Sunderland finished a fine seventh, four spots ahead of Tyneside rivals Newcastle United. Ruud Gullit departed after a miserable start which included a home defeat to Sunderland. Sir Bobby Robson returned to his boyhood club in September and steered the club clear of any danger. That included an 8-0 rout of Sheffield Wednesday as Alan Shearer became only the second player to score five goals in a match.
Sheffield Wednesday made the poorest start in Premier League history with just one point from their first eight games. That meant relegation for the Owls was inevitable. Watford did beat Liverpool FC and Chelsea but struggled throughout and made a swift return to Division One. On the final day, Wimbledon’s Premier League career ended. Defeat to Southampton, coupled with Bradford’s surprising 1-0 success over Liverpool FC meant ‘The Crazy Gang’ went down and Bradford survived against the odds.
With the best attack, most wins and record points haul, Manchester United’s grip on Premier League paradise looked in no danger of being loosened any time soon.