1999 was a big year for Britain. The last of the 20th century, it saw a minimum wage introduced, unemployment tumble, as well as introducing the Internet to 20% of the population. The digital era was still in its primordial stages, but the World Wide Web was becoming more and more popular each day.
English football had been revitalised after Manchester United’s Champions League triumph on May 26 and expectations were high ahead of UEFA Euro 2000. With a squad boasting Michael Owen, Alan Shearer, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, and Gary Neville, there was great hope that the Three Lions could go all the way in the tournament and bring silverware home for the first time since 1966.
Notable transfers that season included Arsenal’s purchase of Frenchman Thierry Henry from Juventus, Manchester United’s purchase of defender Mikel Silvestre, and the arrival of young Irish striker Robbie Keane to Coventry. The Gunners also secured the services of Croatian striker Davor Suker from Real Madrid, whilst Chelsea signed former Premier League winner Chris Sutton for the sizable fee of £10 million.
Several top-end clubs bolstered their squads and the general consensus was that Manchester United would have to embark on a near-perfect season if they hoped to retain their crown. Though they were treble-winners, the strength of the teams around them made retaining the Premier League no easy task.
Watford, Bradford City, and Sunderland were all hoping to retain their Premier League status this season, whereas Chelsea aimed to build upon their impressive campaign in 1998/99.
The 1999/2000 Season Summary
An early milestone in the season came on 22 August 1999 when Arsenal and Manchester United met. The two teams had traded league titles in the two preceding years, and this time it was United who claimed bragging rights as they defeated the Gunners 2-1, with both United goals coming from Roy Keane.
United lead the way until October when Chelsea thrashed them 5-0 in what was, and remains, their joint-heaviest Premier League defeat of all-time. The beating came after a disappointing 3-3 draw against Southampton and United’s shaky form was compounded with them being knocked off top spot and falling behind their old rivals, Leeds United.
Leeds, managed by David O’Leary, won 12 out of their first 14 goals and sat at the top of the table at Christmas with United lagging behind in second. Featuring young, exciting players such as Harry Kewell, Jonathan Woodgate, and Alan Smith, the Yorkshire club emerged from midtable to launch a sudden and unexpected title fight with their Lancashire enemies.
Robson Returns, Kanu Stars
After their near-misses in 1995/96 and 96/97, Newcastle United endured two miserable seasons in the bottom half of the table as Alan Shearer battled with injury. A poor start to 1999/2000 culminated in Ruud Guillit’s resignation and veteran manager Bobby Robson returned to his boyhood club.
Robson’s impact was immediate as the Magpies thrashed Sheffield Wednesday 8-0 in Robson’s first game at St James’ Park. Shearer grabbed 5 of the 8 goals and it looked like the good times and lofty heights were returning to Tyneside. Nolberto Solano, signed the season before from Boca Juniors, made headlines for his impressive performances and status as the first Peruvian player to grace the English top-flight.
One of the classic Premier League games was contested at the other end of the table as Arsenal visited Stamford bridge in October. The Gunners were trailing 2-0 deep into the game, but a stunning hat trick from Nwanko Kanu gave Arsenal the three points. The Nigerian’s treble was capped off with a world-class finish into the cop corner from an extremely difficult angle and Kanu’s name was forever etched into Arsenal folklore.
Super-Kev Bags Golden Shoe
The undisputed star of the 1999/2000 campaign was English striker Kevin Phillips. Sunderland had just been promoted to the Premier League after a two-year absence and the majority of their fans would have been happy to merely stay up for another season. However, Phillips romped to 30 goals throughout the campaign and outscored Alan Shearer, Dwight Yorke, Andy Cole, and Thierry Henry, winning both the Premier League Golden Boot and the European Golden Shoe in the process. To this day, Kevin Phillips is the only Englishman to win the latter award and only Thierry Henry, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Luis Suarez have since won the Golden Shoe with a Premier League club.
Man Utd Cruise to Title
One criticism of the 1999/2000 campaign is it lacked any title drama and Manchester United’s victory was almost inevitable after the turn of the year. Though Leeds were top at Christmas, a run of 11 straight wins obliterated any hopes for the true title race and United stormed their way to another Premier League title with a whopping 91 points, 18 more than runners-up Arsenal.
Manchester United lost only three games all season and bagged 97 goals in their 38 fixtures. After massive speculation at the start of the season that United’s dominance would be challenged, their massive points haul relative to anybody else came as an anti-climax.
Arsenal and Leeds United bagged the other Champions League places, whilst Liverpool and Chelsea secured UEFA Cup qualification.
Wimbledon, Sheffield Wednesday, and Watford were condemned to the First Division whilst newcomers Sunderland attained an impressive 7th-placed finish. Leicester City won the League Cup whilst Chelsea won the FA Cup, the final of which was the last to be played at the Old Wembley.
The 1999/2000 campaign consolidated Manchester United’s power even more. With the Treble secured last season, Sir Alex Ferguson followed up with one of the most dominant displays in Premier League history. As far as the great manager was concerned, this was business as usual.
Season Statistics (Team)
Champions - Manchester United (91 points)
Runners-up - Arsenal (73 points)
Third Place - Leeds United (69 points)
Season Statistics (Individual)
Golden Boot - Kevin Phillips (Sunderland, 30 goals)
Most Assists - 15, shared between David Beckham (Manchester United) and Nolberto Solano (Newcastle United)
PFA Player of the Year - Roy Keane (Manchester United)
PFA Young Player of the Year - Harry Kewell (Leeds United)
Premier League Player of the Season - Kevin Phillips
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