“This is the end my only ever friend, the end…” Whilst Jim Morrison probably didn’t have United’s end of season defeat to Cardiff City in mind when he spoke of staring into the abyss, he may as well have. United have ended their Premier League campaign with the type of sub-standard, half-hearted dross that’s become a perennial fixture of at least three months of every season at Old Trafford.
There was a time when the end of the Premier League season meant title challenges, trophy parades and maybe even a trip to the Champions League final to look forward to. Now it means losing at home to an already relegated side while ‘celebrating’ our derby rivals winning the title, before around three dozen people watch a bunch of disillusioned players trudge round the pitch to a chorus of abuse. Makes me sick muthafucka who far we done fell.
Whilst it’s pretty difficult to look forward to next season which promises to be another long hard struggle trying to catch our rivals, coupled with the added burden of Europa League football, it’s much easier to reminisce over fonder times. Call it sad, I don’t give a shit, nothing can get much sadder than watching Neil Warnock cheering his jubilant fans as we hear City have reached the 98 point tally. I’ll be looking back for many years to come at this rate. With that nostalgia in mind, it’s time to remind ourselves when the final day of the Premier League season meant more to United than cementing a sixth place finish for the second time in three years.
Here’s a top five Manchester United Premier League finales.
5. Middlesbrough 0 Manchester United 1. 1996.
“We won the Premier League – again- down by the Riverside….”
Before he was famous for jumping in on Champions League final celebrations and trying to stop Paddy Crerand from getting MUTV taken off the air, David May was busy helping the Reds make it three titles in four years. Kevin Keegan had ranted “he [Sir Alex]’s got to got to Middlesbrough and get something” and he was right, United needed a point to clinch the title as Newcastle’s rampant form had deserted them and allowed Keano, Eric and the Class of 92 to steal a march. Goals from May, Andy Cole – both of whom suffered criticism and doubts since moving to Old Trafford and Ryan Giggs gave United the win, the points and the title. “Cheer up Kevin Keegan….”
4. WBA 5 Manchester United 5. 2013.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s last ever game as manager of Manchester United was always going to be historic but few predicted it would involve the only five all draw in Premier League history. With the title wrapped up and Sir Alex bidding farewell to the travelling fans, it was supposed to be a formality that the Reds would make easy work of a side that finished 40 points behind them in the table.
When Alexander Buttner (remember him) made it 3-0 to the visitors in the first half, a good old fashioned United hammering seemed on the cards, but the boys from the Black Country had other ideas. Despite the Reds leading at 5-2 at one point, the game ended five a piece, in no small measure thanks to a Romelu Lukaku hat-trick, the only one many of us have seen him score. Fergie would’ve exploded with rage had this game mattered – and was probably a little annoyed he’d not gone out on a win – but in the grand scheme of things it hardly mattered and many Reds travelling home from the Midlands found the whole thing hilarious.
3. Chelsea 0 Manchester United 0. 2007.
Okay so it’s not the Premier League finale, it was the penultimate league game but if you’re taking any of these Top Fives seriously you’re a better man than I am, plus this was arguably the funniest image the Premier League has ever seen. After being dismissed as a dinosaur, out of touch with modern football and unable to keep up with the new breed of managers such as Wenger, Mourinho and Benitez, Ferguson did what he does best and silenced his doubters by winning the title. Again. 2006-07 saw Sir Alex create one of his best-ever sides as the likes of Rooney, Ronaldo, Carrick, Evra, Rio and Vidic helped the Reds lift the title – the first of three on the spin. Unfortunately for Chelsea when the newly crowned Champions visited Stamford Bridge Ferguson added insult to the injury of relieving the West Londoners of their title, by fielding a team of second string players, meaning we got to see John Terry and his team give a guard of honour to the likes of Dong Fangzhou, Chris Eagles, Kieran Richardson and Tomasz Kuszczak. Oh the inhumanity.
2. Wigan Athletic 0 Manchester United 2. 2008.
In many ways 2008 was one of the craziest seasons the Reds have ever been involved in and ultimately one of the most successful. While Arsenal led from the front at the beginning of the season, Chelsea sacked their most successful ‘Judas’ ever and handed over the reigns to a relatively unknown Israeli coach who looked like his wife had just bought him the Mrs Brown’s Boys box set. United stormed through to the Champions League final, battered Arsenal in the FA Cup and went to the top of the table in March as Cristiano Ronaldo became the greatest player on the planet. A win at Wigan and the Reds would make it title number 17. Any nerves that somehow United wouldn’t be able to get over the line were put to bed when Cristiano Ronaldo converted a first half penalty – his 31st league goal of the season. It was the evergreen Ryan Giggs who sealed it though, calmly slotting past Chris Kirkland to guarantee the Reds lifted the Premier League and send us all heading to Moscow feeling confident.
1. Manchester United 2 Spurs 1. 1999.
Will anything ever top those ten days in May 1999? Judging by the current state of United, the answer is not for a fucking eternity but there’s every chance no other team will ever win the treble let alone in the way the Reds did. The first part of the bid for three trophies came on the final day of the Premier League season but in what would be a precursor to the Champions League final and the Reds’ date with destiny, Sir Alex’s side would have to come from behind. Les Ferdinand opened the scoring in the first half before David Beckham bagged an equaliser before half time. It was Andy Cole who got United’s winner, controlling Gary Neville’s long pass before lobbing the Spurs’ keeper with a sublime finish that vanquished any demons from the final day in 1995. Full speed ahead Barcelona, via Wembley, as history beckoned.