Liverpool are just one point ahead of Manchester City at the top of the Premier League with 10 games to go. Only six times has a title race been as tight as this at this stage of the season…
For the sake of simplicity we’ve gone with the number of points accumulated by every side after they had played 28 games (or 32, for the early 42-game seasons), even if in actuality there were games in hand at play.
Other title races have ended up being tighter and more exciting, but we’re interested here in what the gap between the top two sides was with 10 games to go so we can see the different ways it has panned out. Let’s roll.
One-point gap with 10 games to go
6) 2009/10 – Chelsea (61) and Manchester United (60)
Neck and neck going into the final few games, the two exchanged positions a few times but ended up both taking eight wins, one draw and one loss from their final 10 games of the season.
United took the early advantage in the run-in when Chelsea drew 1-1 away to Blackburn in their 30th game, but the Blues flipped things back the other way with a 2-1 win at Old Trafford three games later.
Joe Cole and Didier Drogba struck either side of half time, which meant Federico Macheda’s late goal was not enough for the Italian to rescue the title for United for the second year running.
United emulated Chelsea by only taking a single point away from Ewood Park the following week, giving Chelsea the luxury of being able to lose away to Tottenham and still take the title by winning their final three games against Stoke, Liverpool and Wigan by an aggregate score of 17-0.
Final table: 1. Chelsea (86); 2. Manchester United (85)
5) 2007/08 – Arsenal (65) and Manchester United (64)
Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal were top with ten to go, but both they and United took it in turns to try and hand each other the title, leaving the door open for Chelsea (61 points) in the process.
Arsenal drew with Wigan, United drew with Blackburn, and the pair of them both drew with Middlesbrough.
In the end it all came down to the head-to-heads, and that’s why Arsenal ended up finishing third. They took the lead away to both Chelsea and Manchester United in their 31st and 34th games respectively, but both times ended up losing 2-1. If they had beaten United, they would have been champions. But they didn’t, the idiots.
Chelsea ended up giving United no margin for error in the final two games of the season by beating them by the 2-1 scoreline that was apparently all the rage in 2008. But they were fine with that, strolling to wins over West Ham and Wigan to claim the title.
Final table: 1. Manchester United (87); 2. Chelsea (85); 3. Arsenal (83)
4) 2011/12 – Manchester United (67) and Manchester City (66)
It’s obviously the best one, this one, but we’ve split everything into one-point gap and no-point gap now, and it’s just too late to go back.
Initially it looked like City had muffed it by drawing 1-1 away to Stoke, 3-3 at home to Sunderland, and losing 1-0 away to Arsenal, while Ferguson’s side continued to absolutely kill it.
Then came United’s own stumbles: in game 33 they lost 1-0 away to Wigan, and two games later David Moyes carried out the first part of his two-year plan to utterly destroy the club by leading Everton to a 4-4 draw at Old Trafford.
Vincent Kompany’s goal was then the difference in the super-crucial derby at the Etihad, restoring parity going into the final two games of the season.
You know the end of this story: it’s the Aguerooooooo goal, Phil Jones’ poor little crestfallen face, all that business. God it was great, wasn’t it?
Final table: 1. Manchester City (89, g.d. +64); 2. Manchester United (89, g.d. +56)
No points gap with 10 games to go
3) 1992/93 – Manchester United and Aston Villa – both 60 points
The very first Premier League season featured a compelling three-way title race between United, Ron Atkinson’s Aston Villa and Mike Walker’s Norwich City.
This wasn’t quite yet the indomitable United we would come to know – Ferguson’s side had been without a league title for 26 years – so there was no overriding sense at the time that they would almost always find a way to prevail. And we realise that sounds a bit daft given the entries on this list that sandwich this one.
Villa actually seized the early advantage on the final straight of this 42-game season, beating Sheffield Wednesday as United stumbled to a 1-1 draw in the derby at Maine Road.
Norwich slipped out of the race with a run of four defeats in six games, and Villa ceded their lead to United with a goalless draw at home to Coventry in game 37.
They never got it back. Though Atkinson’s side responded with back-to-back wins over Arsenal and Manchester City, the pressure seemingly got to them in the end as they lost all of their last three games, resulting in a final league table that gives the misleading impression that United had utterly waltzed to the title.
Final table: 1. Manchester United (84); 2. Aston Villa (74); 3. Norwich (72)
2) 2001/02 – Manchester United and Arsenal – both 57 points
A relatively rare instance of Ferguson not only failing to get the last laugh, but ending up being figuratively sick on his own shoes.
Going chronologically, United held the lead until 23rd March, when they had played 32 games; but at that point, Arsenal were just a point behind with two games in hand, with Liverpool a further point back with just one game in hand.
Had the gameweeks been synchronised, United would have slipped into second after their 29th game, a shock 2-2 draw with Derby County that they were only lucky wasn’t a 3-2 defeat, with hot young England prospect Malcolm Christie having an injury-time goal disallowed that would have been his hat-trick.
A 1-0 defeat to Middlesbrough three games later didn’t help, but it was one more slip than the flawless Gunners ever needed: they won every single one of their last 13 games, including a 1-0 win over United in the penultimate game with the title already decided.
Final table: 1. Arsenal (87); 2. Liverpool (80); 3. Manchester United (77)
1) 2013/14 – Manchester City and Chelsea – both 63 points
We know what you’re thinking: “Where are Liverpool?”
Four points back behind these two, that’s where they were. Brendan Rodgers’ side were in the middle of a phenomenal 16-game run that saw them drop just four points. They would drop another five over the last ten games of the season, which is still pretty decent, but the circumstances – Gerrard’s slip, Crystanbul – opened them up to accusations of having bottled it.
But let’s just have a look at Chelsea there, shall we? Their win at Anfield may ultimately have been the final deciding factor in handing the title to City and producing a cataclysmic level of bantz, but at that point they should have been challengers, not kingmakers.
There’s no way Jose Mourinho’s side should have lost to Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and Sunderland, as well as drawing with Norwich. An extra five points from those four games against the teams who finished 15th, 11th, 14th and 18th would have seen the Blues crowned champions.
Ultimately, though, you can’t fit “you lost to three quite rubbish sides and drew with a truly awful one, aaahhhh” into a tune in quite the same way you can with “he slipped on his f**king arse”. So lol, let’s all laugh at Liverpool.
Final table: 1. Manchester City (86); 2. Liverpool (84); 3. Chelsea (82)
Steven Chicken is on Twitter