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When Man Utd were too good for English football - the 1999/00 Premier League
Premier League

When Man Utd were too good for English football - the 1999/00 Premier League

Sir Alex Ferguson's side proved infinitely superior to their rivals as they reclaimed their title

 
2:15pm on Sunday 29th March 2020
By
Martin Macdonald

The 1999-00 English Premier League title was won by Manchester United for the second consecutive season in emphatic fashion, ending the campaign a massive 18 points clear of nearest challengers Arsenal. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side lost just three times, scoring 97 goals in the process as the rest of the league struggled to keep pace with the Red Devils. Leeds United, who had upped their spending considerably, came in third, to qualify for the Champions League.

CHANGES

Manchester United, having a treble-winning squad, weren’t required to do a great deal of housekeeping in the summer. The only real issue Sir Alex Ferguson faced was Peter Schmeichel’s decision to move on to Sporting Lisbon, and he moved quickly to secure the highly-regarded Mark Bosnich as his replacement.

Arsenal responded to losing the title on the final day of the season by acquiring Thierry Henry from Juventus, after the Frenchman’s ill-fated spell in Italy. Wenger planned to turn Henry into a central striker - a decision that would prove hugely lucrative in the long-term for the Gunners.

David O’Leary’s fledgling Leeds were quickly developing into one of the watchable sides in the division, and they added some experienced in the form of Michael Duberry and Premier League winner Jason Wilcox, as well as the promising Michael Bridges for a £5m fee.

Chelsea brought in World Cup winner Didier Deschamps and also spent a huge amount - £10m - on Chris Sutton from Blackburn Rovers, a move that wouldn’t prove beneficial for either club or player, and Sutton was on his way to Celtic at the end of the season. Liverpool, meanwhile, bolstered their attacking options mid-season with an £11m deal for Emile Heskey.

Coming up from the First Division were a Sunderland side that were among as dominant as any promoted outfit in history, followed by the unfancied Bradford City and, via the playoffs, Watford.

SEASON SUMMARY

From the opening rounds of the season it became clear that, once again, United were the team to beat. They won six and drew three of their opening nine matches, including wins at Anfield and Highbury before a comprehensive 5-0 trouncing at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea, where Nicky Butt was sent off, proved to merely given the opposite false hope.

Nine wins in 11 games over Christmas solidified United at the top of the table, though Leeds, to their credit, hung in there for as long as they could. Going into February they were level on points with United, though had played a game more, and a key match at Elland Road would offer the clearest indication yet as to whether the Yorkshire side could keep up their good form.

But United, in typical fashion, triumphed despite being second best for much of the contest; Andy Cole’s solitary effort put the Reds six points clear and after consecutive draws with Wimbledon and Liverpool, they were flawless to the end of the campaign, winning 11 games in a row to vanish into the distance.

Leeds were no doubt affected by the tragic deaths of two fans who were stabbed to death in Turkey ahead of their Uefa Cup semi-final with Galatasaray, and their form plummeted, losing four consecutive games to undo all of their good work. They would, however, recover to clinch a point at West Ham on the final day and ensure a trip to the Champions League.

I think this is a maturing team, they are getting better all the time. I think they are the best side Manchester United have ever had. The great things is that the longer teams stay together and grow together the better they become.Sir Alex Ferguson

Arsenal, despite their talented team promising so much, simply didn’t perform well enough on the road. Sporadic defeats to West Ham, Tottenham and Coventry City throughout the first half of the season destroyed their momentum, and while Henry gave an indication of the striker he would become, it wasn’t enough to give the Gunners a chance against United.

Arsenal did end the season strongly, going on an eight-game winning run before losing the Uefa Cup final to Galatasaray, but it was a frustrating step backwards for a team that had taken United to the final day the year prior.

At the bottom Watford were poor for much of the campaign, winning just six times all season, and they were joined by Sheffield Wednesday, surprisingly relegated. Above them Bradford City required a win on the final day to stand a chance of staying up, and faced a Liverpool side attempting to usurp Leeds for the Champions League slot. However, a towering David Weatherall header saved Bradford, frustrated Liverpool and sent down Wimbledon.

Ruud Gullit’s appointment at Newcastle the previous season had promised a return to the free-flowing football of under Kevin Keegan, but a public fallout with Alan Shearer ended badly for the Dutchman, who quit in September, to be replaced by Bobby Robson.

AWARDS

PLAYER OF THE SEASON

ROY KEANE

The Irishman had controlled United’s midfield for almost a decade but this was his most inspirational and influential season to date.

MANAGER OF THE SEASON

SIR ALEX FERGUSON

The Manchester United juggernaut showed no sign of slowing this season, with a record winning margin for Fergie’s side.

YOUNG PLAYER OF THE SEASON

HARRY KEWELL

The Australian winger was a crucial component of a Leeds side growing up together and taking on the more established, experienced sides in the division.

TOP GOALSCORER

KEVIN PHILLIPS - 30 GOALS

30 goals in 36 Premier League matches, for Sunderland, Phillips finished well clear of second-placed Alan Shearer (23).

TEAM OF THE SEASON

GOAL OF THE SEASON

PAOLO DI CANIO hung in the air to connect perfectly with a right foot volley and wrap up the goal of the season crown in one scintillating manoeuvre.

MOST EXPENSIVE TRANSFER

Thierry Henry

Juventus to Arsenal

£11m

and

Emile Heskey

Leicester City to Liverpool

£11m

KEY MOMENT OF THE SEASON

Andy Cole escaping the Leeds back four to prod into the net and give United a cushion that the Yorkshire club were unable to make up.

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