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2008/09 Season Review

2008/09 Premier League champions: Manchester United

Man Utd win their third straight Premier League title and their 11th overall

The start of the 2008/09 Premier League season signalled the beginning of a new era for Manchester City as the Abu Dhabi United Group agreed a takeover of the club.

Mark Hughes, who was appointed as first-team manager in June 2008, enhanced his squad with a host of additions including Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta and Robinho, who arrived from Real Madrid for a club record fee on the eve of the summer transfer deadline.

Champions Manchester United
Top goalscorer 19: Nicolas Anelka (CHE)
Most assists 10: Frank Lampard (CHE)
10: Robin van Persie (ARS)
Most goals 77: Liverpool
Most clean sheets 24: Manchester United
Player of the Season Nemanja Vidic (MUN)
Manager of the Season Sir Alex Ferguson (MUN)

Tottenham Hotspur striker Dimitar Berbatov joined Manchester United as they looked to win a third consecutive PL crown, while Deco hit the ground running following his move to Chelsea and won the Player of the Month award in August.

Under the guidance of new manager Luiz Felipe Scolari, Chelsea were the early pacesetters with 20 points from eight matches. They were level on points with Liverpool and the early surprise package Hull City by late October.

The newly promoted Tigers won six of their opening nine matches in their debut Premier League campaign. That included away victories over Arsenal and Spurs, both of which included stunning strikes from Brazilian midfielder Geovanni, who moved to Humberside from Man City in the summer.

Tottenham Hotspur's 1-0 loss to Hull City contributed to a disappointing start to the campaign and manager Juande Ramos was replaced by Harry Redknapp on 26 October with the north Londoners bottom of the league table.

David Bentley, Spurs celebration in 2008/09
David Bentley celebrates his 40-yard volley as Spurs draw 4-4 at north London rivals Arsenal

The former Portsmouth manager led Spurs to a 2-0 win over Bolton Wanderers on the same day and, only three days later, his side then scored two late goals to rescue a 4-4 draw with local rivals Arsenal. David Bentley opened the scoring at Emirates Stadium with an audacious 40-yard volley.

The Gunners lost further ground on the leading pack with defeats by Man City and Aston Villa, who were launching an early assault on the UEFA Champions League places. Martin O'Neill's Villa team moved to within one point of Arsenal in fifth position on 7 December when they came out on top in a five-goal thriller against Everton at Goodison Park, Ashley Young settling the match deep into added time.

Manchester United were eight points adrift of leaders Chelsea and Liverpool after 12 matchweeks but a 5-0 thrashing of Stoke City at Old Trafford started a 16-match unbeaten run in the Premier League that helped them go top of the table in January. The result was also the first of 14 consecutive clean sheets for goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, who went 1,311 minutes without conceding a league goal - a new PL record.

With an attacking line-up including Berbatov, Carlos Tevez, Wayne Rooney and Ballon D'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo supplying the goals, Man Utd stretched clear of Chelsea. However, Liverpool, with striker Fernando Torres and midfielder Steven Gerrard in inspirational form, were firmly in the title race.

A 2-0 home win over Chelsea and a 3-2 triumph away at Portsmouth, both sealed with Torres goals in stoppage time, briefly put Liverpool top in February. Despite slipping up against Middlesbrough soon after, they bounced back with a 4-1 win against Man Utd at Old Trafford.

An away defeat followed for Sir Alex Ferguson's side but they swung the title race in their favour when 17-year-old debutant Federico Macheda curled in a brilliant late winner as they rallied to beat Aston Villa 3-2 in April. The Italian's intervention put them one point clear of Liverpool with a match in hand. 

Phil Brown, Hull City in 2008/09
Manager Phil Brown serenades the crowd after guiding Hull City to Premier League safety

Liverpool's title hopes then suffered a decisive blow as Arsenal winger Andrey Arshavin scored all four goals for the Gunners in a 4-4 draw at Anfield. Manchester United dropped only two points in the remainder of the campaign as they surged towards their third consecutive Premier League trophy with one match to spare.

Attention switched to the relegation fight on the final day of the season. Hull City had won only two matches since their strong start and were one point above Newcastle United, who were in 18th position. Magpies legend and PL all-time top goalscorer Alan Shearer was their third manager of the season, replacing Joe Kinnear while he recovered from triple heart bypass surgery. Earlier in the campaign, Kevin Keegan had resigned from his second spell as manager at St James' Park.

Hull City were beaten by champions Manchester United, but Newcastle could not capitalise as Damien Duff's own goal consigned them to defeat at Aston Villa. This ended the Magpies' 16-year stay in the Premier League. West Bromwich Albion and Middlesbrough joined Newcastle in the Championship.

In the UEFA Champions League, three of the semi-finalists - Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea - were English but Barcelona eventually lifted the trophy after beating United 2-0 in the final.

Under the guidance of interim manager Guus Hiddink following Scolari's departure, Chelsea lifted the FA Cup, while Spurs, who recovered from their poor start to finish eighth in the PL, were triumphant in the League Cup final.