Ranked! Football's 10 most shocking matches of the last 20 years
10. Man United 8-2 Arsenal (2011)
An odd one. United were certainly the dominant side in this August 2011 fixture, but not to the extent that would normally get you eight goals (they had 25 shots to Arsenal’s 20, five ‘clear-cut chances’ to Arsenal’s three, and even won fewer corners than the visitors).
Yet the viciously unequivocal nature of the result confirmed in no uncertain terms what they had suspected for some time: that Arsenal, who had long been on a low-key descent and had sold two of their best players in Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas that summer, did not need to be taken seriously as a Premier League challenger.
Most high-scoring wins involve some degree of freakishness, and as such tend to misrepresent the bigger picture. This one managed be both hugely freakish and yet remain perfectly illustrative of its wider context: Arsenal’s departure from the elite at that time was complete.
9. Barcelona 5-0 Real Madrid (2010)
For a team that hoovers up the best players and shiniest trophies on an almost annual basis, Real Madrid haven’t half been on the wrong end of some serious tonkings over the years.
In 2005, the Bernabeu had no choice but to stand, grimace and applaud when a peak-era Ronaldinho single-handedly administered a 3-0 shellacking on behalf of their detested rivals. In 2009, Barcelona showed up and a delivered 6-2 hammering, while those same Catalan scamps managed a 4-0 win at the Bernabeu en route to their league title two years ago.
But it was in November 2010 that the most emphatic result was inflicted: a five-goal rollicking to depose Jose Mourinho's then-unbeaten side at the top of the table. It provided a full-house in Clasico bingo: a Messi masterclass, an indignantly exasperated Ronaldo, a red card for Sergio Ramos – and was a fitting first chapter in the season Guardiola's side arguably reached their aesthetic peak.
8. Man United 1-6 Man City (2011)
While it wasn’t quite the permanent tipping of the Mancunian power balance, it seemed at the time (City and United count one league title apiece in the seasons since) that this was the game which drummed home just how dramatically the Abu Dhabi petrodollars were reshaping the top end of English football.
In reality, the scoreline was largely unreflective of the match itself – three of City’s goals came after the 90th minute, much thanks to some kamikaze attacking from 10-men United – but the symbolism couldn’t have been clearer. The arrivistes had dethroned the champions on their own turf, and in the most ruthless and humiliating way possible. Rather than skulking off to bed, the noisy neighbours had pumped up the volume.
7. Barcelona 6-1 PSG (2017)
Declared a busted flush a fortnight before when they were out-fought, out-thought and outclassed in Paris, Barcelona provided the ultimate riposte at the Camp Nou. This was a comeback that, for sheer eye-bulging theatrical drama, may never be bettered.
Wider context has rendered it little more than a happy footnote (those obituaries weren't so misguided after all: Juventus wiped the floor with Barcelona in the next round) but that's not to take away from the sheer cinematic spectacle of the evening itself.
Already 4-0 down from the first leg, Barcelona were staring down the barrel of a 5-3 aggregate deficit as late as the 88th minute. Seven minutes of murderously determined attacking play from Neymar saw to that, capped off with a diving volley from Sergi Roberto that unleashed unbridled delirium. Pleasingly, the Barça players and staff responded to that final goal in the only way possible: a bench-emptying playground pile-on.