FourFourTwo's best 100 Premier League matches ever: 30-21
Featuring final-day survival and two Manchester derbies
Words: Gary Parkinson (opens in new tab), Phil Haigh (opens in new tab), Rik Sharma (opens in new tab), Jamie Orrell (opens in new tab)
30. Man United 9-0 Ipswich, 04/03/1995
This was a cold-blooded revenge killing. Ipswich had beaten Manchester United 3-2 earlier in the season, and Alex Ferguson’s side were out for payback. Roy Keane made United’s intentions clear by opening the scoring after just 15 minutes, before Andy Cole decided to score five goals. As you do.
Mark Hughes also chipped in with two, while Paul Ince even found himself on the scoresheet. It was a particularly bad day at the office for Ipswich goalkeeper Craig Forrest, who would later suffer a 7-1 battering at the hands of United while playing for West Ham.
Though this emphatic victory saw the Red Devils wipe out Blackburn’s goal difference advantage at the top of the league, they still ended up finishing second to the men from Ewood Park. RS
29. Oldham 4-3 Southampton, 08/05/1993
The first ever Premier League relegation dog fight came to a head at Boundary Park: Oldham needed to win and hope Crystal Palace lost at Arsenal to have any chance of survival. The Latics were therefore going all out for the required three points, while the fact that Southampton had nothing to lose made for a thrilling contest.
Neil Pointon gave Oldham the lead after half an hour, scoring directly from a corner, only for Matt Le Tissier to volley Saints level minutes later. Ian Olney put the Latics back in front just before the break, with Andy Ritchie heading in a third not long after the interval. When Gunnar Halle made if four it seemed as though it would be a smooth ride from there on in, but Le Tissier had other ideas.
The Saints hero quickly pulled one back, placing a 25-yard free-kick in the bottom corner, before heading in his third with five minutes left. But not even Le Tissier could prevent an Oldham win, and with Palace succumbing to a 3-0 loss at Highbury, Joe Royle’s side remained in the top flight. PH
28. Sheff United 1-2 Wigan, 13/05/2007
With Charlton and Watford already down, Sheffield United and Wigan were two of three teams battling to avoid the final relegation spot. Wigan knew only a win would be enough to survive, with the Blades safe unless they lost and fellow scrappers West Ham got a point from their match at Old Trafford.
Paul Scharner’s early opener for Wigan was cancelled out by Jon Stead, but the visitors were back in front just before the break thanks to a David Unsworth penalty. At the same time, Carlos Tevez was giving West Ham the lead against Manchester United.
Despite great pressure, the Blades were unable to force a second-half equaliser; with West Ham holding on further west, that meant they were down. To rub salt into United’s already gaping wounds, Wigan match-winner Unsworth had been allowed to move from Brammall Lane to the Latics on a free transfer just five months earlier. They presumably regretted that decision. PH
Next: Fergie's boys like a comeback
27. Liverpool 4-4 Arsenal, 21/04/2009
The Reds have only rarely found themselves in the Premier League title race in the dying weeks of the season, but their hopes of winning the championship were still alive in April 2009. Rafa Benitez's charges headed into a midweek fixture against Arsenal knowing that a win would put them two points clear of Manchester United at the top.
The Gunners had little to play for but didn’t show it, with Russian new boy Andrey Arshavin giving them a half-time advantage. Liverpool fought back, goals from Fernando Torres and Yossi Benayoun putting the home side in front, but the Russian came to the fore again, netting twice more to secure a hat-trick and regain the lead for the Gunners.
Torres then levelled matters again, but with Liverpool going all out for the win, Arshavin struck an incredible fourth on the break. Benayoun had just about enough time to equalise, but Liverpool were unable to find the win that would have got United sweating. PH
26. Man United 4-3 Man City, 20/09/2009
United prospered in this classic Manchester derby, but it took them until the 96th minute to secure all three points. The reigning champions were favourites to triumph despite City's heavy spending that summer, and everything seemed to be going to script when Wayne Rooney put the hosts ahead after two minutes.
Gareth Barry capitalised on a Ben Foster error to ensure the sides were level at the break, though, before Darren Fletcher and Craig Bellamy grabbed two goals each, the Welshman’s second being a sumptuous curling effort to equalise in the 90th minute. That looked to be the end of the action, but substitute Michael Owen popped up to win it deep – and we mean deep - into injury time. The season ultimately ended in frustration for both sides, with United pipped to the title by Chelsea and City beaten to fourth place by Spurs. PH
25. Everton 2-4 Man United, 28/04/2007
After an absence of four years the Premier League trophy was within reach for Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United; a win at Everton would all but secure the title. However, the Toffees – perhaps fired up by a pre-match remembrance of the recently deceased Alan Ball – had other ideas.
First Alan Stubbs rattled a 30-yard free-kick past Edwin van der Sar, then Manuel Fernandes added another spectacular goal in the second half. United, however, responded in the style of champions by slamming four past stand-in keeper Iain Turner, who was replacing United loanee Tim Howard. John O’Shea tapped home from a corner, before former United stalwart Phil Neville put past his own keeper while trying to clear an effort from Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ex-Toffee Wayne Rooney put his team in front on 78 minutes, allowing youngster Chris Eagles to seal the points with a classy finish at the death. United were five points clear and – after three seasons without the league title – in sight of a trophy they wouldn't relinquish until 2010. JO
24. Man City 2-3 Man United, 09/12/2012
The first derby of Sir Alex Ferguson's final season perfectly summed up the 2012/13 campaign, in which United snatched the title back from their noisy neighbours: although the Red Devils were often defensively suspect, they simply outscored the opposition – and Robin van Persie was the difference.
Wayne Rooney's first-half brace took him to a record 10 derby goals and threatened City's near two-year unbeaten home record; Yaya Toure halved the deficit after the break, though, and Pablo Zabaleta levelled in the 86th minute. But in injury time, Van Persie – whom Roberto Mancini had loudly admitted he'd tried to sign before the Dutchman chose Old Trafford instead – fired a free-kick past a wincing (some might say mincing) Samir Nasri for the winner.
With Van Persie racking up 30 goals, runaway title winners United ended up scoring as many away as City did at home (41). Ferguson retired in triumph, while Mancini was jettisoned in favour of the more attacking Manuel Pellegrini. GP
NEXT: Wenger's nadir?
23. Liverpool 3-3 Man United, 04/01/1994
United were riding high at the top of the table and on a 17-game unbeaten run when they travelled to Liverpool, themselves languishing in ninth place. The form book looked to be a trusty guide when Steve Bruce, Ryan Giggs and Dennis Irwin put the Red Devils 3-0 up after just 23 minutes, with three stunning goals leaving the home side shell-shocked.
Liverpool were not to be deterred, though, and the hosts re-grouped quickly enough for a Nigel Clough double to put them back within touching distance before half-time. Both teams peppered the target throughout the second half, before Neil Ruddock powered in a header to complete the scoring late on, almost knocking himself unconscious in the process. PH
22. Liverpool 4-3 Newcastle, 10/03/1997
Lightning struck twice, as Liverpool and Newcastle played out a second 4-3 thriller in as many seasons. Both sides had designs on the Premier League title, with Liverpool four points behind leaders Manchester United with a game in hand, and Newcastle five points and one match behind. The Reds marched into a 3-0 lead, with Steve McManaman, Patrik Berger and Robbie Fowler all on the scoresheet.
But Kenny Dalglish’s Newcastle were resilient and, thanks in part to some suitably calamitous goalkeeping from David James, they were able to drag the score back to 3-3.
James failed to keep out a tame Keith Gillespie shot, and then later rushed off his line, allowing Faustino Asprilla to lob the ball over his head and into the net. Perhaps now feeling a tad edgy, James again rushed off his line in an attempt to gather a loose ball after Asprilla was dispossessed by Bjørn Tore Kvarme, but Warren Barton got their first and prodded an equaliser past the befuddled keeper. Yet James was let off the hook when Fowler headed home at the death to send Newcastle home from Anfield ruing their luck once again. RS
21. Man United 8-2 Arsenal, 28/08/2011
Yes, Arsenal may have been forced to field a weakened side thanks to yet another injury crisis, but that was no excuse for this pitiful surrender at Old Trafford. Danny Welbeck put United in front, before Robin van Persie saw his spot kick saved by David de Gea. Ashley Young scored soon afterwards and Wayne Rooney banged in a free kick to make it three.
Theo Walcott’s goal seemed to suggest Arsenal were up for the battle, but another Rooney free-kick and a Nani special extinguished the Gunners’ brief spark. Park Ji-Sung then got in on the act, before Van Persie pulled another consolation back for the miserable Gunners.
Carl Jenkinson was soon sent off for two bookings, but Sir Alex Ferguson’s side did not sit back and instead rounded off the rout with Rooney’s hat-trick and an Ashley Young masterpiece. The hammering forced Arsene Wenger to delve into to the transfer marker and sign Mikel Arteta, Per Mertesacker and Andre Santos, but the Gunners were never quite able to recover their stride until springtime. RS
100-91 • 90-81 • 80-71 • 70-61 • 60-51 • 50-41 • 40-31 • 30-21 • 20-11 • 10-1
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Joe was the Deputy Editor at FourFourTwo until 2022, having risen through the FFT academy and been on the brand since 2013 in various capacities.
By weekend and frustrating midweek night he is a Leicester City fan, and in 2020 co-wrote the autobiography of former Foxes winger Matt Piper – subsequently listed for both the Telegraph and William Hill Sports Book of the Year awards.