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Worst season ever?

After breaking all the wrong records in his first season in charge, David Moyes has been shown the door by the Manchester United board. But how bad a season has it really been? Pete Hall takes a look at other disappointing United campaigns...

How bad a season has it been for Man Utd? The worst ever? We look at other poor campaigns.

Replacing Sir Alex Ferguson was always going to be the toughest of challenges, but nobody, not even the most pessimistic of pessimists could have predicted such a meagre defence of Manchester United's Premier League crown. The 2013/14 season could not have gone much worse for a generation of United fans who have become accustomed to continual success, and much to the doubters' relief, the beleaguered David Moyes was sacked on Tuesday after a season of woe. Parallels have been drawn to Frank O'Farrell's ill-fated stint in charge in 1971/72 after taking over from Sir Matt Busby, as Moyes struggled with the level of expectation following in the footsteps of United's most decorated manager. However, just how bad has it been in comparison to other seasons? With European football still a possibility, is it really that bad? We look at some of the seasons that the United faithful were grimacing about, rather than celebrating, and remind fans this isn't the first time they were left disappointed.

1930/31 - Record-breaking relegation

If United fans are thinking a sixth-placed finish is catastrophic, imagine what the fervent following of yesteryear thought when their beloved side finished bottom of the first division, suffering the unprecedented honour of being relegated with a minus-62 goal difference? Herbert Bamlet's side lost the first 12 games in a row and didn't taste victory until early December - to this day United's longest losing streak. The Great Depression of the 1930s didn't help proceedings but less than 4,000 fans attended United's final game of the season against Middlesbrough at Old Trafford, exemplifying the discontent among supporters.

2001/02 - Three in a row forgotten

The three seasons prior to the 2001/02 campaign saw United become the first side in Premier League history to win the title three years in a row and, after cruising to the third by ten points, United's rivals were fearful of further dominance coming into the new season. Squad additions of Ruud van Nistelrooy from PSV Eindhoven and Juan Sebastian Veron for a British record fee struck further fear into their rivals, but the Red Devils were anything but imposing as they finished a disappointing third - their lowest finish in the Premier League to date. The loss of Jaap Stam is cited by many as the catalyst for such a decline, as 45 goals were shipped and nine games lost, but it was home form, much like this season, that was United's downfall. Surprise defeats to Bolton, West Ham and Middlesbrough, along with disappointing losses to rivals Chelsea and Liverpool, were nothing compared to the pain suffered by fans who witnessed Arsenal secure the title at Old Trafford thanks to Sylvain Wiltord's winner.

1973/74 - The return of the King

Denis Law's Manchester United record speaks for itself. He lies second in the club's all-time top scorer charts, with an incredible 237 goals from 404 appearances, averaging 0.59 goals per game. He still holds the record for the most goals scored in a United season, after notching 46 in the 1963/64 campaign, but one of his most memorable contributions at Old Trafford actually came against his beloved United. In April 1974, Manchester City came to Old Trafford knowing they could earn the bragging rights of the city for years to come by relegating United to Division Two, but little did they know just how much disappointment they could cause on their short journey across the city. With the game deadlocked at 0-0, the ball fell to City's new hitman Law, who backheeled into the net. Distraught, Law headed straight off the pitch with his head bowed, thinking he had relegated his beloved United, but results elsewhere meant Tommy Docherty's men would have gone down anyway. However, the image of Law being mobbed by adoring United fans, despite just sending their team down, remains one of the most poignant images in footballing history.

1997/98 - Comeback kings beaten at their own game

Back in in the 1995/96 season United completed one of the most remarkable comebacks in footballing history, overcoming the odds to catch Newcastle to pip the Magpies to their first Premier League title. However, two years later, United went into March with a seemingly unassailable 11-point lead at the top of the Premier League table, and looked on course to secure a hat-trick of titles, but Arsenal had other ideas. The turning point was the Gunners' trip to Old Trafford in mid-March, where a United victory would all but guarantee another Premier League crown. However, Arsenal goalkeeper Alex Manninger, standing in for the injured David Seaman, had one of the games of his life, and kept United at bay, allowing Marc Overmars to snatch a vital victory for Arsene Wenger's men, who used the result as a catalyst to go on an unstoppable run to snatch the title from United's grasp.

2011/12 - The ultimate last-gasp drama

A second-placed finish on goal difference can hardly be classed as a failure, but the manner in which United surrendered the title to their 'noisy neighbours' Manchester City in the final seconds of the season will never be forgotten in both the Red and Blue halves of Manchester. Mikel Arteta looked to have inadvertently sealed a 20th top-flight title for United, as his winner for Arsenal against Manchester City all-but killed off Roberto Mancini's side's resistance. However, a surprise United defeat at Wigan blew the title race wide open, and when Vincent Kompany's header proved to be enough in the most crucial Manchester derby in recent memory, an incredible comeback was on. Nonetheless, on the final day, as United cruised to victory at Sunderland, City were struggling, 2-1 down to QPR with only a few minutes left. As United fans celebrated on Wearside, news started to filter through that Edin Dzeko had equalised for City, and in the final minute of stoppage time, Sergio Aguero scored the latest of winners to cause heartbreak at the Stadium of Light - a wound that is still yet to heal among the most ardent of Red Mancunians.

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