Tag Archives: Titles

Memorable Matches: Newcastle United 0-1 Manchester United (March 1996)

Goalscorer: Eric Cantona 52

Teams:

Newcastle United: Pavel Srnicek, John Beresford, Philippe Albert, Steve Howey, Warren Barton, David Batty, Rob Lee, Peter Beardsley, David Ginola, Faustino Asprilla, Les Ferdinand

Manchester United: Peter Schmeichel, Phil Neville, Steve Bruce, Denis Irwin, Gary Neville, Nicky Butt, Roy Keane, Ryan Giggs, Lee Sharpe, Eric Cantona, Andy Cole

Referee: David Elleray, Attendance: 36,584

On Monday, 4 March 1996, the eyes of the football world were fixed on Tyneside and the eagerly-anticipated meeting between the top two in the 1995-1996 title race. Newcastle United had set the pace all season but they were now under the most scrutiny they’d ever experienced.

In mid-January, Newcastle beat Bolton Wanderers 2-1 to go a staggering 12 points clear but February had brought about a damaging defeat away to West Ham United and a 3-3 draw with relegation candidates Manchester City. They arrived into the match just four points clear of Manchester United.

The Red Devils’ were in great form. Alex Ferguson’s side had strung together a five-game winning sequence which had included a 6-0 thumping of the league’s bottom side Bolton in their last away match. They had the confidence and the momentum. This looked like being the most crucial game of the season for both teams.

It was Andy Cole’s first return to St James’ Park since his surprise departure 14 months earlier in a £7 million transfer to Manchester United but he and Eric Cantona barely got a look-in during a first half completely dominated by the hosts. Unfortunately for Kevin Keegan’s side, Peter Schmeichel was saving his best form for this match.

Twice in the opening five minutes, Schmeichel show his uncompromising attitude to the game by denying Newcastle star striker and top scorer Les Ferdinand. He had no chance though with a Philippe Albert free-kick. The Belgian defender was desperately unlucky to see his effort crash off the crossbar. From the rebound, Ferdinand hoisted the ball over the top. The Newcastle faithful might have been beginning to get the feeling that this wasn’t going to be their night.

Six minutes into the second half, Manchester United struck the significant blow in clinical fashion. Cole was involved in the build-up, evading challenges on the edge of the penalty area. Phil Neville produced a delightful cross to the back post, where an unmarked Cantona arrived. He hit his shot into the ground and there was enough power on it to spin past Pavel Srnicek’s dive. The celebrations from Cantona’s teammates indicated what a big goal this was.

Newcastle had 61% possession in total and 16 attempts on goal but simply couldn’t find a way through. This was their first home defeat of the season and it trimmed their advantage down to just a single point, but with a game in hand. After this result, Manchester United were made favourites by the bookies’ to win the title for the first time since the 1995-1996 season began.

Ferguson’s side grew even stronger after this result. They dropped just five more points in their remaining matches and eventually won their third Premier League title by four points. This was the night where the destiny of the 1995-1996 championship swayed in favour of Manchester United.

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Shock Results: Aston Villa 0-1 Oldham Athletic (May 1993)

Goalscorers: Nick Henry 29

Teams:

Aston Villa: Mark Bosnich, Paul McGrath, Steve Staunton, Shaun Teale, Earl Barrett, Kevin Richardson, Garry Parker (Tony Daley 61), Ray Houghton, Dwight Yorke, Dalian Atkinson, Dean Saunders

Oldham Athletic: Paul Gerrard, Steve Redmond, Craig Fleming, Richard Jobson, Gunnar Halle, Neil Pointon, Mike Milligan, Paul Bernard, Nick Henry, Ian Olney, Darren Beckford

Referee: David Allison, Attendance: 37,247

Aston Villa went into their penultimate match of the 1992-1993 season still harbouring hopes of winning the inaugural Premier League title. However, they had to beat struggling Oldham Athletic to stand any hope of catching Manchester United. Any other result and the championship would return to Old Trafford after a 26-year absence.

They were facing an Oldham side that looked dead and buried in the battle to survive. They required three wins from their last three matches to even have a hope of catching Crystal Palace or Sheffield United. The mathematics looked against Joe Royle’s side. However, no game of football has ever been written on just a piece of paper.

It was a sunny but gusty afternoon in the Midlands and it was the visitors’ who made the brighter start. Young goalkeeper Mark Bosnich, preferred to the veteran Nigel Spink was forced to make a great save after 14 minutes when facing Oldham’s Ian Olney in a one-on-one situation. The chance came from his scuffed goal-kick but he did well to make amends. Royle’s side were showing no fear despite their precarious situation in the table and deservedly took the lead in the 29th minute.

A long-ball was played up the park. Full-back Gunnar Halle had pushed forward and managed to beat Steve Staunton in the air. As Villa’s centre-backs went AWOL, Darren Beckford raced onto the knockdown. His control wasn’t great but fortunately for him and Latics’ supporters, Nick Henry had tracked the ball and scored across Bosnich’s bows to stun Villa Park.

It woke Villa up from their slumbers. Dean Saunders was desperately unlucky with a free-kick three minutes later that smashed the crossbar with Oldham goalie Paul Gerrard completely stranded. Seconds later, the former Liverpool FC forward had a volley cleared off-the-line from a corner.

As the game progressed though, Oldham started to look more comfortable. Heroic displays from the likes of Richard Jobson and Craig Fleming helped them towards a rare clean sheet. Villa’s usual creative spark was evidently missing. Ron Atkinson admitted afterwards that he had toyed with the idea of throwing some of the youngsters into the spotlight before electing to stick with the trusted combination that had got them so close, yet so far.

On the final whistle, it was Manchester United fans celebrating. Their Greater Manchester rivals had just ended their title drought and the party could begin at Old Trafford. For the record, Oldham won their final two matches and survived on the final day at the expense of Crystal Palace.

The Managers: Kenny Dalglish

Premier League Clubs Managed: Blackburn Rovers (1992-1995), Newcastle United (1997-1998), Liverpool FC (2011-2012)

As a player, Kenny Dalglish’s achievements are second-to-none. As a manager, his achievements are almost unprecedented. He was a born winner and experienced the ultimate highs and tragic lows as a manager.

In a playing career that spanned over 20 years, he won numerous honours with both Celtic and Liverpool FC, scored a hatful of goals and produced moments of sheer brilliance that the fans on the terraces at Parkhead and Anfield never forget.

Kenny won the European Cup three times as a player and scored the winning goal in the 1978 final against Club Brugge. In terms of league honours, he won 10 league titles, along with 10 domestic cups and the UEFA Super Cup in 1977. His career is a glittering one and he is often considered the greatest player to have ever played for both Celtic and Liverpool FC.

His management breakthrough came as a surprise and in tumultuous circumstances.

Picking up after Heysel

In 1985, the Heysel Stadium disaster before the European Cup final had sent shockwaves around the world. English clubs were immediately banned from participating in European competition for the rest of the decade. Joe Fagan decided to step down as Liverpool FC’s first-team manager. Dalglish took the reins as player-manager.

In his first season in the dugout, Liverpool FC won the double. It was Dalglish who scored the winning goal on the final day of the season at Stamford Bridge to win the 1986 First Division title for the Reds.’ A week later, they beat Merseyside rivals Everton in the FA Cup final. This was during the height of dominance on Merseyside in the British game. He had come straight in and achieved a unique feat as a rookie. More was to come.

He signed the likes of Peter Beardsley, John Barnes and John Aldridge as Liverpool continued their supreme grip on the English game. Further titles followed in 1988 and 1990, with runners-up spots in 87 and 89. The Double would elude them twice. In 1988, underdogs Wimbledon beat Dalglish’s Reds’ in the FA Cup final. In 1989, it was a last-gasp strike from Michael Thomas that snatched the league title for Arsenal at Anfield with moments remaining of the campaign. Liverpool won the FA Cup that season on a highly-charged afternoon.

Hillsborough

Saturday, 15 April 1989 will remain the blackest day in English football history. It was a sunny afternoon as Liverpool FC fans flocked to Sheffield to see their team play Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup semi-final. 96 supporters would not come home; crushed on the terraces of Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough stadium.

In the aftermath, Dalglish attended many funerals of the victims and his presence on the club, the grieving families and the city has been described as immense. The tragedy affected him deeply and Liverpool’s victory in the cup final that season against Everton was a victory that was much more than just a football match.

In February 1991, the two Merseyside teams played out a belting FA Cup fifth round tie which finished 4-4 at Goodison Park. Two days later, Dalglish shocked everyone by resigning as manager. This was despite Liverpool still being three points clear at the top of the First Division table. All the trauma and strain had caught up with him but he would be back – both in management and later on in his career with the club who he has always seen as home.

Changing the face of Blackburn

After seven months out of the game, Kenny Dalglish returned to management with Blackburn Rovers in October 1991. He led Rovers back to the top-flight of English football for the first time since 1966 with victory over Leicester City in the Second Division playoffs. It meant Blackburn would play in the inaugural FA Premier League season.

Backed by beloved Blackburn fan and steel magnet Jack Walker, Dalglish wasted little time in making the club one of the best in the early Premier League Years. He broke the British transfer record to sign Alan Shearer in 1992 from Southampton and repeated the feat two years later to snare Chris Sutton away from Norwich City.

Other notable buys included winger Stuart Ripley, midfielder Paul Warhurst and goalkeeper Tim Flowers. Blackburn were looking to go all the way and become champions of England. After finishing fourth and second in the first two seasons, 1994-1995 was the year that Walker’s dreams would come true.

Blackburn topped the table from late November onwards and barely surrendered top spot but they were pushed all the way by reigning champions Manchester United. A late wobble saw an eight-point lead diminish to just two by the final day of the season. In an ironic twist, Blackburn were at Anfield to play Dalglish’s former side, Liverpool FC whilst Manchester United travelled to Upton Park to face West Ham United.

Alex Ferguson had been playing his usual mind games tactic, hinting that Liverpool would roll over and allow Blackburn to win to ensure Manchester United wouldn’t win the championship. It didn’t go like that. Liverpool won 2-1 with a late free-kick from Jamie Redknapp. Seconds later, the full-time whistle went in London. Manchester United had failed to beat West Ham and that meant the result on Merseyside was inconsequential. Blackburn Rovers were champions of England for the first time in 81 years. The title meant that Dalglish was only the fourth football manager in history to lead two different clubs to top-flight league championships, after Tom Watson, Herbert Chapman and Brian Clough.

Replacing King Kev on Tyneside

After that title success of 1995, Dalglish retired as Blackburn manager and moved into a Director of Football role where he would be replaced by his assistant Ray Harford. He left the club for good a year later.

In January 1997, he took over at Newcastle United, replacing Kevin Keegan who had abruptly resigned. Dalglish’s impact at Newcastle was limited. He did guide them to a runners-up spot in the 1996-1997 league campaign and spearheaded a famous victory over Barcelona in the following season’s UEFA Champions League group stage. However, he sold the likes of David Ginola, Les Ferdinand and Lee Clark, replacing them with veterans Stuart Pearce, Ian Rush and John Barnes.

Two games into the 1998-1999 season, he left the club. It is still unknown whether he resigned or was sacked. Either way, it is the only managerial period of his career which didn’t bring any silverware or much positive impact.

He went back to his first club Celtic and had a brief spell as manager there after Barnes was fired following a shambolic home League Cup defeat to Inverness Caledonian Thistle. Leaving in the summer of 2000, it would be another decade before Kenny was back in the dugout.

The second coming

In April 2009, Dalglish returned to Liverpool FC, taking a role within the club’s youth academy. He also became a club ambassador. When Rafa Benitez quit in June 2010 after relations with the American owners deteriorated, Dalglish expressed a desire to return to the management post. However, it was Fulham boss Roy Hodgson who got the job.

As soon as the fans got wind of the news that Dalglish had shown interest in the role, Hodgson was toast. Liverpool’s form was terrible and they looked like being involved in a relegation scrap as 2011 began. Hodgson left after a 3-1 defeat to Blackburn which was the club’s ninth defeat of the Premier League season. 24 hours after returning from a holiday in Dubai, Dalglish returned as caretaker manager until the end of the season. After losing his first match back; an FA Cup tie at Manchester United, he admitted it was “a big challenge.”

In the early weeks of his second coming, Fernando Torres was sold for a British transfer record to Chelsea but in came Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez. Performances started to improve and so did results. There were impressive wins over Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City and a 5-2 battering of Fulham at Craven Cottage. By the end of the season, Dalglish had signed a three-year deal to remain as manager and he guided the club to a respectable sixth in the final standings. A pretty good return considering he’d taken over with the club 13th and just four points clear of the drop zone.

In the summer of 2011, Charlie Adam, Craig Bellamy and Jordan Henderson were among the new recruits. Despite some frustrating draws at Anfield, the Reds’ strong away form meant they sat fifth at the turn of the year. However, they faded badly in the second half of the campaign and ended a distant eighth in the table, even below Merseyside rivals Everton. It was their worst Premier League points’ return in a 38-game season. Dalglish’s strong defence of Suarez after he was involved in a racism incident with Manchester United’s Patrice Evra was criticised and apologises only made after the owners insisted. He did win the League Cup on penalties in 2012 but three days after the season ended, Dalglish was sacked and replaced by Brendan Rodgers.

He is still an Anfield club hero and is now on the board at Liverpool as a non-executive director. Kenny Dalglish achieved so much in the game of football. His honours’ list means he will go down as one of British football’s most successful players and managers.

Premier League Files: Edin Dzeko

Premier League Career: Manchester City (2011-2015)

Known as ‘The Bosnian Diamond’ in his homeland, Edin Dzeko has become of the greatest natural finishers in recent times.  Wherever he has been in his career, he has scored goals and this he continues to do now in Serie A with AS Roma. During his time in England, Dzeko won two Premier League titles with Manchester City and played a significant role in the greatest finish ever to a Premier League season in 2012.

However, it was in the Bundesliga where Dzeko began to carve out a reputation for prudent finishing abilities. In the 2008-2009 campaign, he formed a partnership with the Brazilian forward Grafite at VfL Wolfsburg that is among the best ever seen in German football. Between the two players, they scored 54 goals which means their combined total is the most successful in Bundesliga history. Wolfsburg won the title for the first time in their history that season. Having narrowly missed out on the ‘Torjägerkanone’ in 2008-2009, Dzeko’s tally of 22 goals in 2009-2010 was enough to take the most prestigious goalscoring honour in the Bundesliga. He remains Wolfsburg’s all-time record goalscorer in the German top-flight.

In January 2011, a transfer fee was agreed of £27 million between Wolfsburg and Manchester City for Dzeko to make the move to the Premier League. It was the second-highest transfer fee Manchester City had ever paid out for a player at the time. He made his debut later in the month at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers but would have to wait three months for his first Premier League goal; a winner in the 1-0 away success against Blackburn Rovers.

In 2011-2012, Dzeko started in red-hot form. He scored six goals in the first three matches of the season, including a devastating display at White Hart Lane against Tottenham Hotspur. Dzeko scored four times in City’s 5-1 win, becoming the first Citizens’ player to score four goals in a Premier League match. His goalscoring exploits won him the Premier League Player of the Month award for August 2011. As the season wore on, Dzeko would have to fight for his regular place in the team but he made a valuable contribution on the final day at home to relegation-threatened Queens Park Rangers. City were trailing 2-1 going into the dying embers when Dzeko headed home from a corner in the 92nd minute to level the scores. Sergio Aguero then scored the famous winner that ensured City won their first league title in 44 years. The Bosnian forward later said his goal in this match was the most important of his career.

By 2012-2013, Dzeko’s place was mainly warming the bench at Manchester City which was extremely unfortunate because his goalscoring repertoire would have seen him walk into many other starting XI sides. He was making telling impacts though from the bench, scoring 14 goals including winning efforts away at Fulham and West Bromwich Albion. Roberto Mancini left at the end of the season and Dzeko was hoping this would signal a change in his selection usage.

Not initially under Manuel Pellegrini though as the Chilean preferred a partnership of Aguero and new arrival Alvaro Negredo in attack. However, a shoulder injury to the latter in January 2014 saw Dzeko get his chance and he grabbed it with both hands. In March, he scored the fastest away goal at Old Trafford in Premier League history, netting after just 43 seconds in City’s handsome 3-0 victory over their city rivals. Dzeko also scored vital doubles at the backend of the campaign against Everton and Aston Villa as City managed to haul in and overtake Liverpool FC in the final weeks of the season and therefore, claim a second Premier League title in three seasons.

Edin left Manchester City at the end of the 2014-2015 season and moved to Italian football. After a so-so first campaign in the Italian capital, he had an impressive individual campaign in 2016-2017, scoring 39 goals in all competitions and netting an impressive European hat-trick away to Villarreal. Edin Dzeko’s goalscoring record is among the best and Manchester City fans will always thank him for being a crucial part of that day in 2012 when they finally became the kings of English football.

Premier League Files: Nicky Butt

Premier League Career: Manchester United (1992-2004), Newcastle United (2004-2005), (2006-2009), Birmingham City (2005-2006)

Part of the young talent that were dubbed “Fergie’s Fledglings,” Nicky Butt enjoyed a lengthy and fruitful Premier League career, winning six Premier League titles at Manchester United. He is back at the club where he received his big break helping today’s youngsters in the academy as well as being one of the five ‘Class of 92’ owners at Salford City FC.

The midfielder turned professional in 1993 but he had already made his Premier League debut by then, appearing as a late substitute in Manchester United’s 3-0 victory over Oldham Athletic in November 1992. It wasn’t until the 1994-1995 season though that the Old Trafford faithful got to see Butt play on a regular basis.

Roy Keane and Paul Ince were the main central midfielders at the time but with Paul Parker injured and Gary Neville still an emerging talent, Keane was often asked to deputise as a right-back. That meant Butt got more opportunities than expected and when Ince departed in the 1995 pre-season for Serie A with Inter Milan, Ferguson elected to draft Butt into the team on a regular basis as Ince’s replacement.

Goals were not a crucial part of Nicky’s game. Instead, his job was to be the ball-winner in midfield and allow the creative talents to take control going forwards. Nevertheless, he could still chip in with the odd strike. This included a goal in the opening minute of a fixture with Liverpool FC in October 1995 which was Eric Cantona’s comeback match after his nine-month ban for his kung-fu kick on a Crystal Palace supporter. In 1997-1998, Butt made the PFA Team of the Year and many believed this was his best season in the colours of Manchester United as he developed leadership qualities after a knee injury robbed the club of Keane’s presence for much of that season.

Although he started the 1999 UEFA Champions League final victory in Barcelona as Keane was suspended, Roy’s return to fitness, coupled with Paul Scholes dropping back into a central role meant Butt’s first-team opportunities got more limited into the millennium. As competition increased in the midfield, he realised it was time to leave the club that developed him. In January 2004, Nicky Butt handed in a transfer request. Sir Alex Ferguson admitted: “Nicky Butt has asked to leave; it is a very sad situation. Nicky has given Manchester United great service but he wants to play first-team football.”

After turning down a move to Birmingham City, Butt was signed by Sir Bobby Robson for Newcastle United in July 2004. Signing a four-year deal, he was seen as a replacement for Gary Speed who had departed for Bolton Wanderers. Robson was sacked though four games into the new season and Graeme Souness was not convinced by Butt’s performances. He signed Emre, Amdy Faye and Scott Parker and sent Butt packing on-loan to ironically, Birmingham City in August 2005.

He scored on his Blues’ home debut in a 2-1 defeat to Manchester City and played 24 times but after finding out that Steve Bruce had picked his son Alex ahead of him for an away trip to West Ham United, he walked out of the squad and was fined for his lack of discipline. He apologised and returned to the squad but Birmingham were relegated at the end of the season and he returned to Newcastle.

Butt became an integral part of the Newcastle line-up on his return and would captain the side on many occasions when Parker and Michael Owen were injured. He won over the fans’, who had been sceptical about his arrival in the first place and stayed with the club even after their relegation from the top-flight in 2009. He helped get them back into the Premier League before retiring from football.

He might not have attracted major headlines but Nicky Butt had a medal-winning career.