History will say Manchester United won the league at Ewood Park yesterday. Most fans will say it was won at Old Trafford against Chelsea the week before. But where the league was really won was in the final 15 minutes of games this season.
That wasn’t the case in the opening games of the season, firstly when Brede Hangeland scored an 89th minute equaliser for Fulham in their second game of the season; 5 minutes after his own goal had given Manchester United a late lead. 3 weeks later and Manchester United blew a 3-1 lead in stoppage time at Everton when Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta both scored in stoppage time to rescue the Toffees an unlikely point.
Since then, Manchester United have dominated the last 15 minutes of games this season, starting with Dimitar Berbatov’s hat trick versus Liverpool.
Date: Sunday 19 September 2010
Game: Manchester United 3-2 Liverpool
A Dimitar Berbatov brace had given Manchester United a 2-0 lead before the hour in a game they looked in control of until Steven Gerrard converted a penalty before equalising from a free kick. The Bulgarian had the last laugh as he beat Jamie Carragher in the air to head home the winner with 6 minutes remaining.
Result: Manchester United remain 4 points behind leaders Chelsea after 5 games.
Date: Sunday 24 October 2010
Game: Stoke City 1-2 Manchester United
Following three consecutive draws which included throwing away a 2-0 lead over West Brom the weekend prior to their trip to the Britannia Stadium, Javier Hernandez’s exquisite headed goal off the back of his head gave Manchester United a half time lead on the road. But when Tuncay equalised in the final 10 minutes it looked like Manchester United would have to take a share of the points and lose further ground on leaders Chelsea. However, Hernandez, starting for the absent Rooney showed his poachers instinct by poking home Manchester United’s winner in the 86th minute.
Result: Manchester United remain 5 points behind leaders Chelsea after 9 games.
Date: Saturday 6 November 2010
Game: Manchester United 2-1 Wolves
Park Ji-Sung’s solo effort, beating Marcus Hahnemann at his near post in the 93rd minute gave Manchester United a valuable 3 points in a game they were expected to run out comfortable winners pre-match. The American goalkeeper would only play three more league games this season, having failed to keep a clean sheet in his 14 outings.
Result: Manchester United close the gap to 2 points after 11 games as Chelsea lose 2-0 to a Fernando Torres brace at Liverpool on Sunday. A few days later Ray Wilkins’ contract would be terminated at Stamford Bridge and a terrible run of form follows for the Blues.
Date: Saturday 13 November 2010
Game: Aston Villa 2-2 Manchester United
Manchester United did not turn up for the first 80 minutes at Villa Park in this one, and went 2 goals down in the space of 5 minutes, first when Ashley Young converted a penalty conceded by Wes Brown, and with less than 15 minutes to go, Marc Albrighton slotted home a Villa counter attack. Wayne Rooney was absent from this game and both Dimitar Berbatov and Javier Hernandez had been substituted after Young had given the home side the lead. Step up the rest of the team. Federico Macheda drilled one back from 18 yards for the Reds before Nemanja Vidic headed home at the back post with 5 minutes remaining to give Manchester United an unlikely-looking point.
Result: Chelsea suffer a shock 3-0 home thrashing at the hands of Sunderland the following day to see their lead at the top of the Premier League cut to 3 points after 13 games.