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Premier League
Season 1998-99
Champions Manchester United
5th Premier League title
12th English title

The 1998-99 FA Premier League season will always be remembered as the season in which Manchester United won a unique treble of the Premiership title, FA Cup and European Cup. They secured their fifth league championship in seven seasons after losing just three league games all season.

Arsenal, who failed to regain their title, had at one point looked as though they were on the brink of winning the title, after beating fellow rivals Tottenham Hotspur, while Manchester United had drawn against Liverpool, 2-2.

However, Manchester United pushed on and took advantage of Arsenal's 1-0 defeat at Leeds United in the penultimate match of the season and despite going 1-0 down against Tottenham on the final day, came back to win 2-1 and clinch the title. Should they have failed to win, Arsenal would have been crowned Champions, once more.

Manchester United won their record tenth F.A. Cup after beating Newcastle 2-0 at Wembley Stadium; and also won their second European Cup defeating Bayern Munich in the final. United's previous success at Europe had been in 1968, and coincidentally the second success - on 26 May 1999 - took place on what would have been the 90th birthday of Sir Matt Busby, the man who took charge of the 1968 side. In order to achieve this success, the Manchester United playing squad had been altered substantially during the close season. A total of more than £28million had been spent on signing Dwight Yorke, Jaap Stam and Jesper Blomqvist, while several older players left the club. Gary Pallister had returned to Middlesbrough after nine years for a fee of £2.5million, while Brian McClair returned to Motherwell on a free transfer. In December, however, McClair was back in the Premiership as Brian Kidd's assistant at Blackburn Rovers.

Contents

European qualifiers

At the end of 1998-99, the Premiership would have three Champions League places. As well as Manchester United, runners-up Arsenal and third placed Chelsea would be playing in the following season's Champions League. There would only be one automatic UEFA Cup place from the league - taken by fourth-placed Leeds United. Fifth-placed West Ham United qualified for the UEFA Cup via the Intertoto Cup. Also qualifying were Newcastle United via the FA Cup final, and Tottenham Hotspur via the League Cup.

Going down...

Bottom of the Premiership in the final table came Nottingham Forest, who suffered their third relegation in seven seasons. One notable low for Forest this season was an 8-1 drubbing at home, by Manchester United. Second from bottom came Blackburn Rovers, who just four seasons earlier had been Premiership champions. The final relegation place went to Charlton Athletic, who went down at the end of their first spell in the top flight for nine seasons. The only newly promoted club to survive was Middlesbrough, who finished in a respectable ninth place.

None of the teams relegated from the Premiership the previous season regained their top division status in 1999, although First Division champions Sunderland regained their Premiership place after a two-year exile. The other two relegation places went to long-term absentees from the top division. Playoff winners Watford regained their top division place after an absence of 11 years, but runners-up Bradford had been outside of the top division for 77 years. These two promotion winners surprised the observers more than any other Division One side during 1998-99.

Managerial changes

Liverpool brought in former French national coach Gérard Houllier to work alongside manager Roy Evans at the start of the season, but Evans resigned in November to leave Houllier in sole charge.

Tottenham Hotspur sacked Christian Gross in September after less than a year in charge. His replacement was George Graham of Leeds United, who was himself replaced by former assistant David O'Leary.

Newcastle United sacked Kenny Dalglish just after the start of the season and replaced him with Ruud Gullit.

Everton appointed Walter Smith as Howard Kendall's successor.

Blackburn Rovers sacked Roy Hodgson in November, with the club bottom of the table. Manchester United assistant Brian Kidd replaced him. Ironically relegation was confirmed in the penultimate game of the season against Kidd's former club.

Nottingham Forest sacked Dave Bassett in October and put Ron Atkinson in charge until the end of the season. Atkinson retired after failing to save Forest from relegation and former England captain David Platt, 33, was name as player-manager.

Final league table

Pos Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts Notes
1 Manchester United 38 22 13 3 80 37 +43 79 UEFA Champions League 1999–2000 First group stage
2 Arsenal 38 22 12 4 59 17 +42 78
3 Chelsea 38 20 15 3 57 30 +27 75 UEFA Champions League 1999–2000 Third qualifying round
4 Leeds United 38 18 13 7 62 34 +28 67 UEFA Cup 1999–2000 First round
5 West Ham United 38 16 9 13 46 53 -7 57 1999 UEFA Intertoto Cup Third round
6 Aston Villa 38 15 10 13 51 46 +5 55
7 Liverpool 38 15 9 14 68 49 +19 54
8 Derby County 38 13 13 12 40 45 -5 52
9 Middlesbrough 38 12 15 11 48 54 -6 51
10 Leicester City 38 12 13 13 40 46 -6 49
11 Tottenham Hotspur 38 11 14 13 47 50 -3 47 UEFA Cup 1999–2000 First round1
12 Sheffield Wednesday 38 13 7 18 41 42 -1 46
13 Newcastle United 38 11 13 14 48 54 -6 46 UEFA Cup 1999–2000 First round2
14 Everton 38 11 10 17 42 47 -5 43
15 Coventry City 38 11 9 18 39 51 -12 42
16 Wimbledon 38 10 12 16 40 63 -23 42
17 Southampton 38 11 8 19 37 64 -27 41
18 Charlton Athletic 38 8 12 18 41 56 -15 36 Relegated to Football League First Division 1999–2000
19 Blackburn Rovers 38 7 14 17 38 52 -14 35
20 Nottingham Forest 38 7 9 22 35 69 -34 30

Pld = Matches played; W = Matches won; D = Matches drawn; L = Matches lost; GF = Goals for; GA = Goals against; GD = Goal difference; Pts = Points

1 Tottenham Hotspur qualified for the UEFA Cup as League Cup winners

2 As Manchester United qualified for the Champions League, their UEFA Cup place as FA Cup winners defaulted to Newcastle United, the losing finalists

Season statistics

Total Goals: 963
Average Goals per game: 2.53
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Arsenal

By the final day of the season, Manchester United were top of the Premiership and were facing Arsenal's local rivals Tottenham. United won 2-1 and clinched the title, making Arsenal's last-day victory meaningless and condemning the Gunners to a trophyless end to a season in which they had conceded just 17 Premiership goals.

The sale of young forward Nicolas Anelka to Real Madrid made the following season's task all the more difficult.

Aston Villa

The early-season sale of Dwight Yorke to Manchester United seemed to rule out Villa's chances of challenging for a UEFA Cup place, but new signings Dion Dublin and Paul Merson soon revitalised the attack and spent much of the first half of the season top of the league. By Christmas Villa were top of the Premiership, though eventually the challenge from Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea was too strong and Villa's season capitulated, tailing off into sixth place - this season it wasn't even enough for a UEFA Cup place.

Blackburn Rovers

Four years earlier, Blackburn Rovers were Premiership champions. Just one year earlier, they had qualified for the UEFA Cup. They were among some people's outsiders for a title challenge.

But it all went wrong for Blackburn, who were soon in the depth of a relegation battle. Manager Roy Hodgson paid with his job in November, and Manchester United assistant Brian Kidd was named as his replacement. But Kidd was unable to steer Rovers to safety, and their relegation was confirmed in the penultimate day of the season, when they failed to beat United at Ewood Park. They were condemned to a place in Division One, but managed to hold on to many key players and approached the new season as most people's favourites for an immediate return to the elite.

Charlton Athletic

Back in the top flight after an eight-year exile, Charlton Athletic made a good start to the Premiership campaign and Alan Curbishley was voted Manager of the Month for August. Their form soon dipped, but they were never completely outclassed by the rest of the Premiership sides. In the end, they were the last team to make the drop following a late revival by Southampton. But Curbishley's job was still safe, as the board had every confidence in his ability to regain a hard-earned place among the elite for the Addicks.

Chelsea

Chelsea's recent revival continued, after a solid 4th place finish, European and League Cup success the previous season, Chelsea really felt that they could challenge for the title this season, The Blues made yet more big name signings, most notably French World Cup winning Defender Marcel Desailly from A.C. Milan, Spanish International Right-Back Albert Ferrer from F.C. Barcelona and breaking the clubs transfer record by paying £5.4 million for Italian International Stiker Pierluigi Casiraghi from S.S. Lazio, unfortunately Casiraghi's season and career was cut short by a knee injury, Gianfranco Zola had arguably the best season of his career, leading Chelsea to a serious title challenge, scoring 13 league goals, 15 in all competitions, and setting up many other goals for his team-mates. The European Super Cup was the only trophy that they had to show for their excellence. Their defence of the now-defunct Cup Winners' Cup ended in the semi-finals, while their title challenge was ended in early May when they just couldn't get the better of Manchester United or Arsenal. But a third place finish in the league booked them a third successive European campaign, and was another triumph for their excellent young manager Gianluca Vialli, who at 35 announced his retirement as a player to concentrate on his managerial duties.

Coventry City

Coventry City finished 15th in the Premiership - four places lower than last season - but were never in any real danger of being relegated, despite the loss of key striker Dion Dublin to local rivals Aston Villa.

The biggest news of Coventry's season was the announcement of a move to a new 45,000-seat stadium at Foleshill, which was anticipated to be ready by 2002. Manager Gordon Strachan then signed Moroccan international football star Mustapha Hadji, knowing that it would be important to have a top quality team to match the forthcoming new home.

Derby County

Derby County had another solid season in the Premiership, going one better than last season's finish to come eighth in the final table. They were in with a chance of a UEFA Cup place right up to the beginning of May, but once again they couldn't quite make it. They still had the satisfaction of finishing well above more fancied sides including Tottenham, Newcastle and Blackburn; not to mention finishing one place behind Liverpool.

Everton

Everton continued to look a shadow of their former selves after Howard Kendall made way for new manager Walter Smith, though their 14th place finish was a three-place improvement upon last season's near miss with relegation. With Smith having achieved so much success north of the border with Rangers, he had been expected to bring some success to the blue half of Merseyside after two seasons of misery, but there was little for the Goodison Park faithful to shout about.

Leeds United

Shockwaves were sent around Elland Road when manager George Graham walked out on Leeds to take charge of Tottenham in early October, and Martin O'Neill seemed certain to take over the reins. But it was a shock to many when O'Neill turned his back on Leeds, and Graham's former assistant David O'Leary was appointed instead. He quickly worked wonders with a predominantly young, inexperienced side, and they managed to qualify for the UEFA Cup in fourth place - their highest finish since winning the title seven years earlier. The acquisition of brilliant young striker Michael Bridges from Sunderland at the end of the season gave Leeds fans hope of more success - and preferably silverware - next time round.

Leicester City

Leicester City repeated the previous season's 10th place in the Premiership, earning Martin O'Neill more credit for achieving strong finishes on a relatively limited budget. But the club's best chance of a UEFA Cup place was blown in late March when they lost to Tottenham in the Worthington Cup final. At least City fans had the satisfaction of holding on to the highly-rated O'Neill, who had seemed certain to desert the club for Leeds early in the season.

Liverpool

The appointment of former French national coach Gérard Houllier as joint manager alongside Roy Evans was seen as Liverpool's best chance of making a title challenge, but Evans did not enjoy the partnership and quit in November to leave Houllier in sole charge. Despite Michael Owen's brilliant form, Liverpool were unable to mount anything like a title challenge and seemed to be a side in transition following the appointment of their new coach and adapting to a new style, including facing the imminent break up of their Spice Boys squad with transfers in (Rigobert Song) and out (Jason McAteer, Stig Bjornebye, etc). By January, the side was reshuffled but the failure of the club to retain the services of Steve McManaman, transferred to Real Madrid in a deal labelled as the Bosman scandal of the season, hurt the club financially. Performance wise, their seventh place finish was not enough to attain even a UEFA Cup place - as well as being the club's lowest finish for five years.

Manchester United

Determined not to endure a repeat of last season's disappointing, trophyless season, Alex Ferguson twice broke the club's transfer record by signing Dutch defender Jaap Stam and then Aston Villa striker Dwight Yorke, as well as bolstering his attacking options by signing Jesper Blomqvist from Parma. They overcame an early challenge from Aston Villa to mount a three-horse title challenge with Arsenal and Chelsea, and a 2-1 win over Tottenham - Andy Cole netting the winner - on the final day of the season confirmed their status as champions for the fifth time in seven seasons. The following weekend, they took on Newcastle in the FA Cup final to win 2-0 at Wembley and become the first English team to win three "doubles" - they did so with no fewer than four key players remaining from the 1994 double winning side. That double would eventually become a Treble, as United were also the winners of the UEFA Champions League 1998-99, defeating Bayern Munich 2-1 in the final at the Nou Camp.

Middlesbrough

Middlesbrough were the only newly-promoted side to avoid relegation from the Premiership in 1998-99. They attained an impressive ninth place finish in the final table. Way too high for relegation, but not quite high enough for a UEFA Cup place. Still, it was their highest finish for more than 20 years, and a step in the right direction for manager Bryan Robson - who had come close to European qualification (via the cup competitions) in the previous two campaigns.

Newcastle United

Newcastle's season was an almost carbon copy of the one before. They finished 13th in the Premiership but reached the FA Cup final, and entered Europe (this time into the UEFA Cup due to the discontinuation of the Cup Winners' Cup) because the winning side had already qualified for the European Cup.

Just after the season started, Kenny Dalglish paid for Newcastle's sub-standard league performances with his job. The task was given to Ruud Gullit to turn things round, on the now-infamous promise of delivering 'sexy football' to Tyneside. But he could not improve on the club's previous league finish of 13th and a second successive cup final appearance was just not enough. A dismal league position put them below local rivals Middlesbrough as well as other unfancied sides including Derby County and Sheffield Wednesday.

Nottingham Forest

Pierre Van Hooijdonk, top scorer in Forest's promotion-winning 1997-98 campaign, went AWOL before the start of the season following the sale of strike partner Kevin Campbell and it appeared that he would never play for the club again. He returned in October, but Forest were already deep in relegation trouble and it was too late to save manager Dave Bassett's job. Ron Atkinson made what appeared to be his final return to management, but was unable to save Forest from relegation in bottom place - the third time in seven years that they had endured this fate. With just 7 wins and 30 points all season, they had never really looked like beating the drop, due to embarrassing results like the 8-1 beating at home to Manchester United. A win at Goodison Park was the highlight of Atkinson's ill-fated tenure.

When Atkinson's contract was not renewed, Brian Little, Glenn Hoddle and Roy Evans were just some of the many high profile names linked with the manager's job, but in the end it was 33-year-old former England captain David Platt who took on the role as player-manager.

Sheffield Wednesday

Danny Wilson's return to Hillsborough as manager saw them begin the season among the favourites for relegation of many pundits. But they performed reasonably well throughout the season - being one of just three sides to beat treble winners Manchester United - and finished 12th at the end of a campaign during which they had never faced any serious threat of going down. The only major concern at the club was a growing mountain of debts which would have been even more of a worry had the Owls suffered relegation.

Southampton

Southampton were in the relegation zone all season long until April, and then a late run of good form saved the Saints from relegation at the expense of Charlton Athletic. Winning their final game of the season was a double delight, not only because they had attained survival. It also meant that they would be able to press ahead with a move to a new 32,000-seat stadium on the banks of the River Itchen, knowing that they would only have to play two more seasons at their dilapidated century-old Dell before making the long-awaited move to a capacious new home.

Tottenham Hotspur

A dismal start to the season saw Christian Gross lose his job as Tottenham manager less than a year after taking over. There were a few raised eyebrows when the job went to George Graham - who had achieved so much success during his reign at Tottenham's deadly rivals Arsenal. But the appointment brought instant success. Though Tottenham were unable to progress beyond 11th place in the final Premiership table, they triumphed in the Carling Cup to attain only their second European campaign of the post-Heysel era.

West Ham United

After narrowly missing out on a UEFA Cup place in 1997-98, West Ham finally achieved European qualification for the first time since 1980 thanks to a fifth place finish. Although star striker John Hartson was sold to Wimbledon in March (a record fee for West Ham), manager Harry Redknapp held on to Rio Ferdinand and ensured that West Ham would be with their finest asset in their next big challenge. The season also saw the arrival of Paolo Di Canio from Sheffield Wednesday. The season also saw the breakthrough of many current England internationals into the first team. Frank Lampard made a vital contribution to the season and Joe Cole made his debut.

Wimbledon

Wimbledon dipped one place to finish 16th in the final Premiership table, bringing them to a new low in their 13th season of top flight football.

In March, when Wimbledon were still in the top half of the table with a UEFA Cup spot still within reach, striker John Hartson joined the club in a record £7.5million move from West Ham United, but his arrival coincided with a decline in form that dragged the club to the wrong end of the table.

Manager Joe Kinnear resigned at the end of the season after seven years in charge, to be succeeded by former Norwegian national coach Egil Olsen.

Top goal scorers

Scorer Goals Team
Netherlands Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink 18 Leeds United F.C.
England Michael Owen 18 Liverpool F.C.
Trinidad and Tobago Dwight Yorke 18 Manchester United F.C.
France Nicolas Anelka 17 Arsenal F.C.
England Andrew Cole 17 Manchester United F.C.

Notes


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