2006-2007: Manchester United return to the summit
|Champions||Manchester United||Biggest Win||Reading 6-0 West Ham United|
|Runners-Up||Chelsea||Highest Scoring Game||Arsenal 6-2 Blackburn Rovers|
|Third Place||Liverpool FC||Top Goalscorer||Didier Drogba (20)|
|Relegated||Sheffield United, Charlton Athletic, Watford||Goals Scored||931|
Since last tasting title success in 2003, Sir Alex Ferguson had been forced to watch Arsenal go through an entire campaign unbeaten, then Chelsea runaway with the last two championships. It was time to put a stop to London’s recent monopoly of the Premier League.
He managed to sort out any differences Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney might have had after the World Cup and brought the good times back to Old Trafford. Ronaldo cleaned up with all the major individual awards and in the manager’s 20th season at the helm, Manchester United won their ninth Premier League title.
Chelsea pushed them all the way, despite setbacks away to Middlesbrough, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool FC. Ultimately, they fell just short in the finishing straight, with five successive draws. Their dreams ended with a 1-1 draw at Arsenal on the penultimate weekend of the campaign. Jose Mourinho could at least console himself with a domestic cup double, whilst Didier Drogba’s 20 goals were good enough for the Ivorian’s first Golden Boot.
Liverpool FC and Arsenal once again completed the top four but neither launched a significant challenge. Liverpool didn’t score a goal from open play away from home until early December, whilst Arsenal struggled to settle at the Emirates Stadium, dropping too many points in early-season draws with Middlesbrough, Everton and Newcastle United.
Sam Allardyce had another fine campaign at Bolton Wanderers. He had taken the Trotters’ from Premier League strugglers to regular European contenders. He stepped down a couple of weeks before the season concluded as he prepared for a new challenge as Newcastle United manager. Bolton wound up seventh, just behind Tottenham Hotspur and Everton. Reading were a fine eighth in their first season in the Premier League.
The main drama came at the bottom of the table. Watford made an unsurprising quick return to Division One and they were joined by Charlton Athletic, whose seven-year journey ended with a home defeat to Tottenham in early May. Charlton had three managers over the course of the season. Iain Dowie and Les Reed were both axed by Christmas and Alan Pardew, who had been sacked by West Ham United three weeks before, ended up having too much to do to save the Addicks. To complete the twists, it was Charlton’s former boss Alan Curbishley who ended up in charge of the Hammers.
West Ham had stunned the footballing world by signing Argentine stars Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano on transfer deadline day. However, they had broken third-party transfer regulations and were given a record fine but no points’ deduction, much to the chagrin of their relegation rivals.
Whilst Mascherano moved onto Liverpool in January, Tevez stayed, scored valuable goals in the relegation run-in and took them from 10 points adrift of safety in early March to survival in May, achieved by his final day winner at Old Trafford. It was Sheffield United who were relegated instead, losing 2-1 at home to Wigan Athletic. David Unsworth, who started the season as a Blades player, struck the winning penalty that kept Wigan up at the expense of the Yorkshire side. Both Neil Warnock and Paul Jewell left their managerial positions after this dramatic afternoon.
In 2006-2007, Manchester United returned to the summit of English football.