The 2006-07 English Premier League title was won by Manchester United, their first since 2003. United were able to end the spell of superiority from Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea, who had won back-to-back titles in the seasons prior, to finish the campaign on 89 points, six clear of the Blues, who finished second. The partnership of Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney proved most fruitful as Sir Alex Ferguson commenced the ‘third wave’ of United teams that would be too good for the division.
Even in an era before massive transfer fees became the norm, the 2006 summer transfer was reasonably subdued; apart from one club, however. Champions Chelsea did their level best to solidify their position at the summit of the English game and spent big to add to their already stellar squad.
Andriy Shevchenko, one of the best forwards in Europe, arrived from AC Milan for a fee in excess of £30m while Germany international Michael Ballack came in on a Bosman from Bayern Munich. The Blues didn’t stop there. Ashley Cole joined from Arsenal with William Gallas going in the opposite direction, while the promising and wanted John Obi Mikel was recruited for £16m. In short, Chelsea appeared to be buying a third straight league title.
Manchester United had been closer in 2006 than anyone else and opted for one careful and crucial arrival, Michael Carrick from Tottenham for £18m. Spurs promptly spent the revenue on Dimitar Berbatov from Bayer Leverkusen, a player who, ironically, would also end up at Old Trafford in a few short seasons.
For Arsenal, with a change of stadium (moving from Highbury to their new home, the Emirates) also appeared to have a squad clearly in transition. Along with Cole’s departure, Dennis Bergkamp retired, Robert Pires departed for Villarreal, while Sol Campbell signed on at Portsmouth. This marked the beginning of a frugal era for the Gunners. Their new stadium came with associated high-interest costs and their transfer market activity would be seriously curtailed over the next few seasons.
As for Liverpool, they opted to invest in firepower, adding Craig Bellamy from Blackburn Rovers and Dirk Kuyt, a Dutch international, from Feyenoord.
Chelsea started as many expected. A disappointing loss at Middlesbrough aside, their form was consistently good. United were keeping pace, too, however, and after the sides played out a tense 1-1 draw at Old Trafford, United were on top, three clear of Chelsea, with a huge 11-point opened up to the rest of the chasing pack. It was clear from early that a two horse race would be fought until late in the campaign.
Chelsea were first to waver either side of the new year. Three damaging draws, with Reading, Fulham and Aston Villa, allowing United to stretch into a six-point lead. But as United kept winning, so did Chelsea, and after United went down 2-1 at Portsmouth in early April, the gap was once again back to three points with six games remaining.
But as the teams entered the final stages Chelsea were caught out all too often. They drew five of those six games, while United were able to take full advantage. While trailing 2-0 to Everton there were able to turn the match around, scoring four times in the final 30 minutes to clinch the points. A vital 1-0 win, courtesy of a Ronaldo penalty, won the Manchester derby and effectively secured the title. In the end, United won in style, ending the season on 89 points, six ahead of Chelsea, who were a gigantic fifteen points further clear of Arsenal and Liverpool, highlighting the gulf in class.
The Premier League is such a competitive league and the focus and the pressure on the big clubs makes it a focus for us. I used to have an obsession of winning in Europe but the Premiership has become a priority.Sir Alex Ferguson
Indeed Arsenal and Liverpool never got going. Liverpool had far more success in the Champions League, reaching the final only to lose to AC Milan, whereas Arsenal could not use the excuse of getting accustomed to a new stadium, because it was their away form that destroyed their campaign. They won just seven of their 19 matches away from home in what was, largely, a season to forget.
At the bottom Charlton Athletic, a Premier League stalwart since the turn of the millennium, finally dropped back down to the Championship, and they were joined by a Watford side who struggled for goals.
In the final relegation position were Sheffield United, but their demise was mired in controversy. The Blade lost a winner-takes-all match against Wigan, 2-1, on the final day of the campaign, while West Ham, who had been dead and buried just a month prior, won their final four matches, including on the final day against Manchester United, to survive. Their form had turned courtesy of the brilliant Carlos Tevez, but his transfer was subject to investigation amid rumours they had breached signing rules in order to acquire Tevez and his fellow Argentine, Javier Mascherano. A long-arduous legal battle ensued, but Sheffield United were never reinstated, and they haven’t played Premier League football since.
PLAYER OF THE SEASON/YOUNG PLAYER OF THE SEASON
Winner of both awards, 2006-07 was the season when Ronaldo was able to align all of his talents perfectly on his way to becoming one of the game’s most complete players.
MANAGER OF THE SEASON
SIR ALEX FERGUSON
Ferguson saw the ability of his side to overcome the powerful, big-spending Chelsea of Mourinho and Abramovich as one of his greatest achievements as a manager.
DIDIER DROGBA - 20 GOALS
An impressive 20 goals from the Ivorian hitman, who remained Chelsea’s key attacking asset despite the arrival of Shevchenko.
TEAM OF THE SEASON
GOAL OF THE SEASON
WAYNE ROONEY and Cristiano Ronaldo’s superb interplay produced a fabulous team goal that represented this vibrant United side perfectly.
MOST EXPENSIVE TRANSFER
Milan to CHELSEA
KEY MOMENT OF THE SEASON
Last-minute goals in successive weeks; Ronaldo’s winner against Fulham followed by John O’Shea’s scrambled strike to defeat Liverpool helped to maintain United’s momentum at a key point in the campaign.