Top Ten: Title Run-ins
By Andy Clarke. Last Updated: 26/03/09 10:31am
With this season's Premier League title race as close as ever. Skysports.com takes a look at some of the most exciting races down the years...
1. 1988/89: Champions - ARSENAL
1. Arsenal Pld 38 Pts 76
2. Liverpool Pld 38 Pts 76
There's really only one place to start. Only once has the title been decided by the final kick of the season, when Michael Thomas added to Alan Smith's opener to give Arsenal an incredible 2-0 win at Anfield and deny Liverpool an historic second double. Liverpool simply had to avoid defeat by two goals to win their seventh title of the 80s, but they played with a tension far removed from their habitual ruthlessness. Level on points and goal difference, George Graham's Gunners took the top spot on goals scored and Brian Moore entered the words 'It's up for grabs now!' into football folklore.
2. 1971-72: Champions - DERBY COUNTY
1. Derby County Pld 42 Pts 58
2. Leeds United Pld 42 Pts 57
3. Liverpool Pld 42 Pts 57
4. Manchester City Pld 42 Pts 57
Few champions could have endured the nail-biting suspense that Brian Clough's Derby went through in 1972, as they emerged from a four-way tussle to take the title - Cloughie's first. The Rams' prospects looked bleak when they slipped to third place having lost their penultimate game at Manchester City, whose own challenge came a little too late. But Derby beat Liverpool in their final game and their title bid was back on. Liverpool and Leeds still had one match left to play, so Cloughie took his family to the Scilly Isles and his assistant Peter Taylor took the team to Spain to await their fate. Liverpool drew 0-0 at Arsenal to finish a point adrift, before Leeds lost their last match 2-1 at Wolves, just two days after beating the Gunners in the FA Cup final and a full week after Derby finished their campaign. A draw would have been enough for Leeds.
3. 1967-68: Champions - MANCHESTER CITY
1. Manchester City Pld 42 Pts 58
2. Manchester United Pld 42 Pts 56
The Manchester United team of Best, Charlton and Law were just weeks away from being crowned European Champions, but they were pipped to the league title by rivals City, who boasted their own outstanding trio in Lee, Bell and Summerbee. Level on points with two games to play, Joe Mercer's City had to visit Tottenham and Newcastle while United had home games against Newcastle and Sunderland. United thrashed Newcastle 6-0 to stay top, while City won 3-1 at White Hart Lane to keep up the chase and force a last-day decider. United went down to a 2-1 defeat to Sunderland, so City's thrilling 4-3 win at St James' Park was enough to make them champions for the second time.
4. 1970/71: Champions - ARSENAL
1. Arsenal Pld 42 Pts 65
2. Leeds United Pld 42 Pts 64
If Mickey Thomas' last-gasp winner at Anfield was dramatic, it still wasn't as sweet for Arsenal fans as Ray Kennedy's 86th minute header which sealed the first leg of the league and cup double for Bertie Mee's side at the home of their arch-rivals. The Gunners went to Tottenham needing a win or a goalless draw to pip Leeds to the title, having lost 1-0 at Elland Road a week earlier. In between, both teams had won their final home games of the campaign, Leeds beating Forest 2-0 and Arsenal edging out Stoke by a single goal. In the end Arsenal held their nerve and gained the clean sheet they needed. A week later they completed the double, Charlie George scoring the winner to beat Liverpool 2-1 at Wembley.
5. 1998/99: Champions - MANCHESTER UNITED
1. Manchester United Pld 38 Pts 79
2. Arsenal Pld 38 Pts 78
With three games to go, United and Arsenal were neck-and-neck, but the Gunners had the tougher fixtures and that was to prove their downfall. As United won 1-0 at Middlesbrough, Arsenal beat Spurs 3-1 at White Hart Lane. However, their hardest assignment was always going to be at Leeds and so it proved, as Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's late winner put United pack in the driving seat. United drew 0-0 at Blackburn the next night, meaning a win over Tottenham at Old Trafford would be enough. Tottenham did go in front through Les Ferdinand, but goals from David Beckham and Andy Cole gave United a 2-1 victory. Kanu's later winner for Arsenal against Villa was academic.
6. 1975/76: Champions - LIVERPOOL
1. Liverpool Pld 42 Pts 60
2. QPR Pld 42 Pts 59
Queens Park Rangers supporters may be declaring their club 'the richest in the world' after their F1 windfall, but it's a long road back to the dizzy heights of 1976 when they almost nicked the title away from Liverpool. A Gerry Francis-inspired Rangers beat the Reds 2-0 at Loftus Road on the opening day of the season and they remained unbeaten at home throughout the campaign, winning 17 of their 21 home games. Their 2-0, last-day win over Leeds on April 24 put them top, but they had to wait until May 4 before the outcome of the title was decided. In the event, it went to Anfield as Liverpool beat already-relegated Wolves 3-1 at Molineux to win it by a single point.
7. 1985/86: Champions - LIVERPOOL
1. Liverpool Pld 42 Pts 88
2. Everton Pld 42 Pts 86
In the mid 80s, Merseyside ruled. Howard Kendall's superb Everton team won the league by a massive 13 points in 1985 and then by nine points in 1987. In between, Liverpool did the double, beating the Toffees to the title by just two points and then seeing them off 3-1 in the FA Cup final. The title race went down to the last day and Everton's 6-1 win over Southampton meant Liverpool needed at least a draw at Chelsea. Player-manager Kenny Dalglish was the Liverpool hero, volleying the only goal in a 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge.
8. 1991/92: Champions - LEEDS UNITED
1. Leeds United Pld 42 Pts 82
2. Manchester United Pld 42 Pts 78
The last season before the Premiership, and the last time the league was won by an English manager. Having led Leeds to the Division Two title and then a fourth placed finish in the top flight, Howard Wilkinson fought a tense head-to-head battle with Alex Ferguson and Manchester United throughout the campaign. It was supposed to be the year Ferguson ended United's 25-year wait for a league title, but Leeds, despite heavy defeats at QPR and Manchester City as nerves threatened to get the better of them, edged it. After winning a frantic Yorkshire derby 3-2 at Sheffield United, Leeds sat back and watched United go down 2-0 at Liverpool later that afternoon and the title was theirs with one game to spare.
9. 1994/95: Champions - BLACKBURN ROVERS
1. Blackburn Rovers Pld 42 Pts 89
2. Manchester United Pld 42 Pts 88
Blackburn went into the final day with a two-point advantage after a gritty 1-0 win over Newcastle but by no means in total control of their destiny. As Kenny Dalglish made an emotional return to Anfield, Manchester United went to mid-table West Ham knowing a win may well have been enough, given their superior goal difference. United fell behind to a Michael Hughes goal only to hit back through Brian McClair. However, despite a host of chances, most of them for Andy Cole, United couldn't find a winner, rendering Blackburn's 2-1 defeat to Liverpool irrelevant. Almost as soon as Jamie Redknapp's winner hit the net, news filtered through that United had only drawn.
10. 1995/96: Champions - MANCHESTER UNITED
1. Manchester United Pld 38 Pts 82
2. Newcastle United Pld 38 Pts 78
Arsenal's 13-match winning run to land the 2001/02 title was an amazing achievement, but almost as impressive was Manchester United's ruthless pursuit of Newcastle in 1995/96. Kevin Keegan's men led the table by 12 points in January after a United team featuring the hapless William Prunier had crashed 4-1 at Spurs. The title looked to be destined for St James' Park. However, inspired by Eric Cantona, United won 13 of their last 15 matches to overhaul the Geordies. United's 1-0 win at St James' was the only time Newcastle lost on their own patch - successive away defeats at Arsenal, Liverpool (4-3) and Blackburn proved to be their undoing. United went into the last day needing a draw at Middlesbrough, emerging with a resounding 3-0 win, with Andy Cole among the scorers.