Thrashed champions: Hammered teams who went on to win the title

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Roberto Mancini insists Manchester United are still favourites to the lift the Premier League trophy, but if they do, they won't be the first champions to recover from a good hiding earlier in the season. European football expert Michael Yokhin looks at some memorable examples.

In late October, when Manchester City thrashed United 6-1 at Old Trafford, some thought it was the end of an era, let alone a season's title race. Who could recover from such a drubbing and still win the title? Well, actually, a surprising number of teams have come back from a caning, winning the league despite shipping five or more goals in a game. Ask Alex Ferguson himself....

1996/97: Newcastle 5-0 Manchester United; Southampton 6-3 Manchester United
“You've just seen the champions today,” boasted Newcastle chairman Freddie Shepherd. No wonder he was jubilant. After collapsing to lose the 1995/96 title to Manchester United, the Magpies took their revenge on October 20, demolishing the previously unbeaten champions.

The riot was started by Darren Peacock, who almost never scored, and finished by his elegant central defensive partner Philippe Albert with an audacious lob. In between, David Ginola scored a Goal of the Season contender, while Alan Shearer assisted Les Ferdinand and (of course) scored himself.

If conceding five was bad, the following week United went one worse on the south coast. Peter Schmeichel had one of the worst games of his career, while Eyal Berkovic scored two and made three in only his third game for Graeme Souness's Southampton. Egil Ostenstad, also in his third game for the Saints, bagged a hat-trick. While Ferguson could blame it all on the early Roy Keane sending-off, there was no excuse for conceding 11 goals in a week – not even the grey shirts which he had blamed for the previous season's Dell defeat.

Crisis claims were even more relevant when United lost their next game at home to Chelsea, but the recovery was swift. They were back on top by January, and by the end of the season it turned out Shepherd was perfectly right. By then Kevin Keegan had resigned, while Graeme Souness’ Southampton just managed to avoid relegation by the skin of their teeth.

1999/2000: Chelsea 5-0 Manchester United
Quite an occasion for the Italians. It was possibly Gianluca Vialli's greatest game as Chelsea manager, while Massimo Taibi probably proved to be Ferguson’s worst ever recruit. Treble-winning United arrived at Stamford Bridge unbeaten in 29 league games, but that record came to an end in a spectacular fashion in early October.

It all started when Gus Poyet took advantage of a terrible Taibi blunder in the first minute. Then £10 million man Chris Sutton scored the only league goal of his bizarre Chelsea career. Even Jody Morris, better known for his antics away from Stamford Bridge, scored.

The Blues leapfrogged United to the top of the table and were dreaming of becoming a top team, long before Roman Abramovich arrived. However, they immediately lost three in a row and eventually finished fifth. United were back on top by November and strolled to an easy title, 18 points ahead of runners-up Arsenal.

1993/94: Zaragoza 6-3 Barcelona
Under the tutelage of young coach Victor Fernandez, Zaragoza played some exuberant attacking football in the mid-'90s, and one of their greatest nights was on 13th February 1994.

Fernando Caceres started it off early, and Gus Poyet finished it late on, but it was Caceres' Argentinian compatriot Juan Esnaider who was the biggest star with a brace. Discarded by the Real Madrid academy just a few months previously, the burly striker proved his point at Zaragoza and was resigned by Los Blancos in 1995.

That day, however, Johan Cruyff couldn’t believe his eyes. Pep Guardiola was sent off, and Ronald Koeman was substituted to save him from embarrassment. Romario did his utmost at the other end with two goals, but that didn’t really help. With Deportivo La Coruna beating Sevilla, Barça were now five points off the pace in the chase for their fourth successive league title.

Cruyff's side never relented, however, and once again rode their luck on the final day. After winning in the previous two seasons thanks to Tenerife beating Real Madrid, Barcelona this time owed their title to Miroslav Djukic’s penalty miss in the final seconds of the season for Deportivo against Valencia. Zaragoza finished third in 1994, and got their just reward a year later when Nayim lobbed David Seaman in that Cup Winners’ Cup final in Paris.

2002/03: Real Madrid 1-5 Mallorca
Hell hath no fury like a striker scorned. Well, not Samuel Eto'o, anyway. Elbowed out of Real Madrid, the Cameroonian never forgave his former side, and long before singing rude Real-riling songs at Barcelona title celebrations, Eto'o produced one of the most stunning games Bernabeu has ever witnessed.

Involved in a mighty title struggle with La Coruna and Real Sociedad in early May, Madrid lead 1-0 at half-time thanks to a goal from Ronaldo. Then the unthinkable happened: as Eto’o ran riot, Mallorca scored four goals in 21 minutes. Roberto Carlos was so frightened by him that he scored a weird own goal. Amazingly, the disaster was complete when Carlitos replaced Eto’o at 89 minutes and scored himself in injury time.

Vicente del Bosque’s team dropped to third after 0-0 draw at Huelva a week later, but managed to snatch the title nevertheless in a dramatic fashion. That didn’t save the moustached coach, who was shown the door – along with legendary captain Fernando Hierro – hours after the final whistle of the last game.

1977/78: Fortuna Dusseldorf 5-1 FC Koln
This was an extremely important game for legendary coach Hennes Weisweiler. The man who built the the great Borussia Monchengladbach team (and fell out with Johan Cruyff at Barcelona) returned to his first club Koln in summer 1976, but his first season was marked by constant conflicts with Wolfgang Overath, and in the close season Weisweiler controversially discarded the 33-year old icon.

Everyone waited to see how Koln would fare without perhaps the cklub's greatest ever player, and the knives were sharpened for Weisweiler when the opening day of the season brought a heavy home thrashing by Dusseldorf.

The atmosphere changed very quickly, though. Koln won their next four games, scoring 18 goals in the process, and never looked back. They won the title on the last day – on goal difference, despite Gladbach crushing Borussia Dortmund 12-0 in desperate attempt to overtake their local rivals. This remains Koln’s last Bundesliga trophy.

2006/07: PSV Eindhoven 1-5 Ajax
This could lay good claim to being the most dramatic season ever in Holland. Six weeks before the end, the title looked wrapped up: PSV led the table by eight points from Ajax and AZ Alkmaar. Then Henk Ten Cate’s Amsterdammers came to Eindhoven and made fun of Ronald Koeman’s team, scoring at will, with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar bagging a brace. Even PSV's consolation goal was scored by former Ajax legend Patrick Kluivert.

After this defeat, PSV almost completely fell apart. They took just five points from their next four games, dropping to third before the final week, with all three contenders level on points. AZ needed just a win at lowly Excelsior Rotterdam – but lost, while PSV snatched the title from Ajax on goal difference by thrashing Vitesse 5-1. Some reverse for Koeman.

2000/01: Nantes 0-5 Bordeaux
Remember Pauleta? The Portugese striker, who became the best goalscorer in France during the first decade of the century, announced himself to the whole country with a 63-minute hat-trick at Nantes. Those were his first goals after moving from Deportivo La Coruña to Bordeaux, and his first victims went into a tailspin after that amazing home defeat in early September 2000.

The Canaries took just two points from the next four games and found themselves in 15th place, with coach Reynald Denoueix facing the sack. Then they had their own 5-0 away win at Strasbourg, and everything was yellow-and-green again. Nantes finished the season with eight wins in a row, winning the title comfortably. Bordeaux – beaten 2-0 at home by the Canaries in the return fixture – finished fourth.

1982/83: Real Betis 5-1 Athletic Bilbao
Javier Clemente built a very tough Basque side around Andoni Goikoetxea, the infamous Butcher of Bilbao. Who would have believed they could be thrashed with such ease at the most crucial point of the season? Six weeks before the end, Athletic were level on points with Real Madrid, when Betis took them apart. Luckily for Clemente, champions Real Sociedad, their fellow (and rival) Basques, drew 0-0 with Los Blancos, leaving the gap at a single point.

The drama went to the wire, with Madrid leading by the very same point before the final round. Alfredo di Stefano’s team then lost at Valencia, while Clemente won at Las Palmas to celebrate his maiden trophy. The margin of the win? 5-1...

1995/96: Karlsruhe 5-0 Borussia Dortmund
In the mid-90s Karlsruhe were a joy to watch, with red-headed coach Winfried Schafer on the bench and young Jens Nowotny playing like Matthias Sammer at the back. South African striker Sean Dundee was their dangerman, before becoming one of the biggest Anfield flops ever. On April 30th he had a terrific game against champions Dortmund, scoring and helping Russian rocket Sergei Kiriakov get a brace.

It was a potential disaster for Ottmar Hitzfeld’s men, as Bayern Munich were hot on their heels. There was a massive relief, though, when a week later the Bavarians squandered a two-goal lead at Bremen, losing 2-3 and giving away a golden chance to overcome their rivals. The challenge faded, and Hitzfeld comfortably won the title for the second time, by a whopping six points.

2007: Lyn Oslo 6-0 Brann Bergen
In Norwegian, Lyn means lightning, Brann means fire, and this was certainly a flaming affair. Bergen had been beaten just once before visiting Oslo, but looked like a very poor amateur team, taken apart in what could have been an even bigger humiliation. Chinedu Obasi, the Nigerian striker recently signed by Schalke from Hoffenheim, was one of the stars for the home team.

Brann didn’t take the setback too seriously, as they recovered quickly to win their first and only title since 1963. Lyn’s fate was much worse. Sadly for the supporters who filled their compact Frogner stadium that day, they are now recovering in lower divisions, having gone bankrupt in 2010.

1999/2000: Brondby 5-0 Herfolge
You might think that John Jensen’s coaching career was limited to a few months as Steve Kean’s assistant at Blackburn. You'd be very wrong. The former Arsenal legend, scorer of that sensational goal versus Germany at Euro 92 final (and very few others), concocted what probably was the most improbable title win ever: a side from a village of just over 3,000 inhabitants were champions of Denmark. Jensen signed just one player in the summer of 1999, and in a very strange season Herfolge were soundly beaten more than once.

Brondby bagged five against them, with the first two coming from suitably-named striker Ruben Bagger, but Herfolge finished ahead of them in the final table, with a goal difference of just “+4”. They were relegated in the very next season, when Brondby thrashed them 5-0 again.