Premier League

Arsenal chase down big-spending United to claim the title - the 2001/02 Premier League

United went large on Ruud van Nistelrooy and Juan Veron but the Gunners were too good in the run-in

11:00am on Monday 30th March 2020
Martin Macdonald

The 2001-02 English Premier League title was won by Arsenal, clinching the title at Old Trafford in the closing stages of the season to bring Manchester United’s run of victories to an end. The Gunners were convincing and worthy winners, finishing seven points ahead of Liverpool and 10 clear of United.


Manchester United, after three seasons of being too good domestically but falling short in Europe, decided to double down on their dominance by spending large sums on a duo they believed could take them to another level.

Juan Sebastian Veron’s £28m signing from Lazio shattered their previous club record, while the transfer of Ruud van Nistelrooy, one that should have happened the previous year only for a cruciate ligament injury to postpone the deal, finally went through with a cheque for £19m written to PSV Eindhoven. Veteran Laurent Blanc and promising forward Diego Forlan were also added in a clear message to the rest of the division that they would have to significantly raise their game to compete.

The other clubs may have struggled to compete with that spending, but they were also able to make some shrewd additions. Arsenal made Sol Campbell the most high-profile Bosman signing to date, moving from rivals Tottenham on a huge salary, while the versatile Giovanni Van Bronckhorst was a useful addition from Rangers.

Liverpool meanwhile added in a number of departments; they solved their ongoing goalkeeper problem by bringing in not one, but two replacements in the form of Chris Kirkland and Jerzy Dudek. Czech forward Milan Baros and full-back John Arne-Riise were also brought in and they would help Liverpool develop into a force to be reckoned with.

Chelsea’s Roman Abramovich spending was still a few years away but they were still active, adding Frank Lampard from West Ham as well as William Gallas, Emmanuel Petit and Bolo Zenden.

Newcastle also looked good - Laurent Robert cost £11m from Paris Saint-Germain while Craig Bellamy would eventually form a fruitful partnership with Alan Shearer following his move from Coventry City.

Finally, came Leeds’ last roll of the dice. With their financial downfall still to come, they spent £11m on Robbie Fowler from Liverpool in a bid to return to the Champions League. It would, ultimately, be a gamble that failed to pay off.


Despite so many new additions, no side could find any consistency in the first half of the season, with all the major contenders dropping points regularly. Champions Manchester United went on a dreadful run in October through to November, losing five matches in seven, including defeats away to Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool, conceding nine goals in those matches.

Arsenal meanwhile slowed flashes of their ability but they too failed to win a league match for a month, losing in uncharacteristic fashion to Charlton and then, in a controversial encounter, to Newcastle at Christmas.

Liverpool, after a slow start, were the team who proved most difficult to beat, going on a 12-game unbeaten run which was ended in comprehensive fashion by Chelsea, and from that moment, their season imploded. Defeat to Arsenal followed immediately, and once the Reds had awoke from their stupor in mid-January, they had won just once in eight matches and had fallen from first to fifth in the table.

And yet, the top of the table remained as congested as it had been for years. With fourteen games remaining just two points separated the top four of Manchester United (48), Arsenal (47), Newcastle (46) and Liverpool (46).

It's just fantastic to win it here as they are the team we want to beat, the team who have dominated English football for the past three years.Arsene Wenger after winning the league at Old Trafford

Newcastle, who had negotiated their way into the conversation so well, lost crucial matches to Arsenal and Liverpool back-to-back, and a further 2-2 draw at home to Ipswich Town effectively ended their challenge.

But after faltering so often, Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal all embarked on superb runs of form and, in the end, only a few dropped points either way decided the destination of the title. Liverpool dropped just five points in their final fifteen games, Michael Owen finding a rich vein of form, but their mid-season slump left them with too much ground to make up.

Similarly, United were scoring a plethora of goals (four versus Sunderland, Bolton and Tottenham and five against West Ham), but the margins were fine. A draw at Derby coupled with a home loss to Middlesbrough gave Arsenal the edge.

And the Gunners accepted it with gusto. Arsene Wenger’s side won their final thirteen games of the season, and Sylvian Wiltord’s winner at Old Trafford in the penultimate round of games eventually crowned a deserved champion in one of the most closely contested Premier League seasons of them all.

At the bottom, Leicester City, Ipswich Town (so strong the season previous) and Derby County were consigned to the drop, with Sunderland and Bolton just surviving.




The French playmaker proved to be an essential member of Arsenal’s title-winning midfield.



For masterminding a fantastic end-of-season run that proved decisive in the final reckoning, Wenger was the worthy winner.



The Newcastle forward was an instant hit at St James’ Park, creating a formidable partnership with Alan Shearer.



The Frenchman struck 24 times in Arsenal’s title-winning campaign, just edging out Van Nistelrooy, Alan Shearer and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.



DENNIS BERGKAMP scored the most mind-bending goal in Premier League history, flipping the ball round Nikos Dabizas before sliding nonchalantly into the net.


Juan Sebastian Veron




United still held out hope of winning the title for the fourth season in a row, but Sylvain Wiltord’s memorable goal sent the trophy to Highbury instead.

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