The 5 greatest sides not to win the Premier League
1. Newcastle 1995/96
A team featuring Les Ferdinand, Peter Beardsley and David Ginola played some exhilarating, attacking football
Everyone’s seen the interview.
“When you do that with footballers like he [Alex Ferguson] said about Leeds… I’ve kept really quiet but I’ll tell you something, he went down in my estimation when he said that,” a wide-eyed, finger-jabbing Kevin Keegan told Sky Sports after his Newcastle team’s 1-0 victory at Elland Road in the run-in.
“We have not resorted to that. But I’ll tell you, you can tell him now if you’re watching it, we’re still fighting for this title and he’s got to go to Middlesbrough and get something. And I’ll tell you, honestly, I will love it if we beat them. Love it.”
Beat them they did not, but Newcastle were a fine side in 1995/96. A team featuring Les Ferdinand, Peter Beardsley and David Ginola played some exhilarating, attacking football, as the Magpies flew out of the traps and won nine of their first 10 matches. By January, they had opened up a 12-point lead at the top and looked almost certain to win their first league championship since 1927.
Manchester United had other ideas, though, and were pretty much unstoppable after beating West Ham 1-0 in January. The Red Devils’ final 15 games brought 13 wins and a draw, while Keegan’s men lost five and drew three in the same period. A lack of title-winning experience ultimately cost them, but few Premier League sides have been as thrilling to watch in full flow.
2. Liverpool 2013/14
A 3-2 triumph over closest challengers City put the Merseysiders in pole position to claim their first league title since 1990
There was little in Liverpool’s opening 13 matches to suggest they would go on to be favourites to win the league with just a few weeks of the season remaining. Three consecutive 1-0 wins against Stoke, Aston Villa and Manchester United certainly represented a positive start but by the start of December, the Reds were seven points off the pace having lost to Southampton, Arsenal and Hull.
But then everything seemed to click, and Norwich (5-1), West Ham (4-1), Tottenham (5-0) and Cardiff (3-1) were all blown away by Brendan Rodgers’ side. They were suspect defensively (they conceded a total of 50 goals) but - with an intoxicating front three of Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling - scintillating going forward, as they scored 101. Their progress was checked by back-to-back losses to Manchester City and Chelsea, but Liverpool roared back and were looking down at the rest of the division from the summit of the standings by the end of March.
A 3-2 triumph over closest challengers City put the Merseysiders in pole position to claim their first league title since 1990, but a 2-0 defeat by Chelsea and 3-3 draw with Crystal Palace – in which a three-goal lead was inexplicably squandered against opponents with nothing left to play for – allowed Manuel Pellegrini’s Manchester City to snatch the prize on the final day.
Liverpool actually racked up more points in another close, second-place finish (under Rafael Benitez in 2008/09), but the sheer brilliance of Suarez means this iteration comes out on top.
3. Chelsea 2007/08
Unfortunately for Chelsea, an impressive return of 85 points wasn’t quite enough to overhaul Manchester United in first place
Poor Avram Grant. The Israeli has become one of those names supporters desperately don’t want to hear linked with their club’s vacant managerial post, but things could have been so very different had Lady Luck been smiling on him in 2007/08 (although he probably wouldn’t have smiled back).
Chelsea failed to beat both Manchester United and Fulham in the two matches immediately after Jose Mourinho’s shock departure in September, which left them seven points behind table-toppers Arsenal, who also had a game in hand. From that point onwards, though, the Blues were brilliant: a narrow reverse to the Gunners in December was their only other defeat that season, as Grant’s charges won 22 of their remaining 30 matches to shoot up the standings.
Unfortunately for Chelsea, an impressive return of 85 points wasn’t quite enough to overhaul Manchester United in first place, with the Red Devils ending the campaign two points clear of the west Londoners, who themselves finished a couple ahead of Arsenal. United also got the better of Chelsea in the Champions League final in Moscow, where John Terry’s slip denied him the chance to score the winning penalty kick in the shoot-out.
Grant, who has since bossed Portsmouth, West Ham, Partizan Belgrade and Ghana with minimal success, was left to ponder what might have been.