With the Premier League title wrapped up, relegation places decided and Champions League spots all but filled (barring a massive twist), this season’s final day will be something of a dead rubber.
Sky Sports are determined to make a day of it, but the truth is that only Swansea beating Manchester City will provide any sort of drama this Sunday, and even then Manchester United have to be relied upon to beat Bournemouth.
Down through the years, however, the Premier League has provided unforgettable moments on its final day, from matches where the battle against relegation was won or lost, or the title itself was clinched.
Here are five such instances:
1998/99: The First Part of a Treble
Having lost the league title to Arsenal the previous season, Alex Ferguson and Manchester United were determined to make up for it. They played host to Tottenham, with Arsenal just one point behind and facing Aston Villa at Highbury.
If Man United thought Spurs might roll over in an effort to stop Arsenal winning the title, they soon had to reassess that belief when Les Ferdinand lobbed Peter Schmeichel to give the visitors the lead after 24 minutes.
As much of a shock to the system as that was for Man United, they regained their composure to equalise courtesy of a fine David Backham strike just before half time. The comeback was completed just inside the second half as Andy Cole controlled a high ball into the box before calmly guiding the ball over Spurs keeper Ian Walker.
Arsenal took the lead at Highbury through Nwankwo Kanu just after the hour mark, but it was not enough – the title was heading back to Old Trafford, with two more trophies following before the month was out.
2004/05: Survival Sunday
For the time since the Premier League’s inception, no team was mathematically down going into the final day of the 2004/05 Premier League season. Three of Norwich, Crystal Palace, West Brom and Southampton were guaranteed to be relegated, but one would survive.
Bryan Robson’s West Brom started the final day at the foot of the table – and having been bottom at Christmas, history was not on their side. They defeated Portsmouth 2-0 but were still reliant on other results going their way.
Norwich, sitting in 19th, went down with a whimper by being crushed 6-0 by Fulham at Craven Cottage. Crystal Palace, meanwhile began the day in 18th, and were looking like the team most likely to stay up at one point. Winning 2-1 away at Charlton and with 17th placed Southampton losing to Manchester United at St. Mary’s, it was all set up for the Eagles if they could just hang on.
Except they couldn’t. With just eight minutes remaining, Charlton’s Jon Fortune equalised, that game finished 2-2 and by virtue of being the only team in the bottom four to win that day, West Brom – unbelievably – began their match in 20th but ended it in 17th.
2005/06: Dodgy Lasagne Costs Tottenham a Top Four Finish
Securing top four for Arsenal is something they have become accustomed to, but in 2006 their position in the Champions League places was looking extremely shaky. They had not been in the top four since November, and had let their run to the Champions League final become a distraction; it looked for all the world like arch-rivals Tottenham would finish above them for the first time in eleven years.
Unfortunately for Tottenham and Martin Jol, fate had other ideas. A bout of severe food poisoning afflicted the Tottenham squad the night before their final match away at West Ham, and the weakened team was noticeably off-form during the match itself.
Needing a victory, they succumbed to a 2-1 defeat at Upton Park thanks to a late Yossi Benayoun strike. With Arsenal winning 4-2 against Wigan at Highbury, Arsène Wenger’s side leapfrogged Tottenham at the last possible moment to ensure that normal service had resumed.
1994/95: King Kenny’s Return To Anfield
A Liverpool legend, Kenny Dalglish returned to Anfield with his Blackburn Rovers side looking to win the club’s first league title since 1914. Sitting two points above Manchester United in the table, Dalglish knew that he had to win to be sure of securing the trophy.
If he thought his old team were going to do him a favour, however, he soon got a rude awakening. Alan Shearer put the away side into the lead after 20 minutes, and with Man United losing at West Ham, things were initially looking good for Blackburn.
That all changed around the hour mark. Brian McClair had not long equalised at Upton Park, and John Barnes levelled matters for Liverpool at Anfield. Things were looking ominous for Blackburn when Jamie Redknapp put Liverpool in front in stoppage time, and with Man United peppering the West Ham goal as they went in search of a winner, it seemed only a matter of time before they would score and break Blackburn hearts.
Remarkably, West Ham held on to draw 1-1, and Blackburn caused a massive upset by releasing the Premier League title from Sir Alex Ferguson’s grasp.
Leading Manchester United on goal difference heading into the final day of the 2011/12 season, Manchester City knew a win against Queens Park Rangers at the Etihad would give them only their third ever domestic league title, such was their superior goal difference.
When Pablo Zabaleta gave the home side the lead in the first half, everything looked like it was going according to plan. QPR, however, did not get the script, and two goals in fifteen second half minutes (with a Joey Barton red card in the middle) swung the tie in the way side’s favour. As the game ticked on it appeared Man City were cracking under the pressure at the final hurdle, and with Man United winning away at Sunderland, it looked like being crushing disappointment at the last for Roberto Mancicni’s side.
A route back to salvation came in stoppage time courtesy of an Edin Džeko header, but it seemed like that would not be enough as time ebbed away.
And then this happened…
Sergio Agüero pounced in the fourth minute of stoppage time – after a rare Mario Balotelli assist – to cause scenes of wild celebration in the stands as the home side came from 2-1 down to 3-2 up. Manchester City were the champions.