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Five Of The Most Important Title Run-In Games In Premier League History

By Aaron Strain
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Can you smell that?

Yep, that's good old Premier League tension and if it hasn't started to seep from at least one of your orifices at this stage, then you might want to check you still have a pulse?

All eyes will be trained on Old Trafford this evening as Manchester United and Manchester City lock horns in one of the most important derby matches, and indeed just matches, of the Premier League era. United, still reeling from Sunday's abysmal display away to Everton are still chasing a top-four finish that would see them qualify for next year's Champions League, but for Reds fans, that only gives half the context.

A victory for the home side would put arch-rivals Liverpool in pole position to lift their first Premier League crown whilst if Pep Guardiola's side can topple their neighbours, their fate will remain in their own hands as one of the league's tightest ever title races draws toward the finish line.

The two sides have been directly and sometimes indirectly involved in some of the most memorable title run-in matches over the 26 editions of English football's jewel in the crown competition.

Here we take a look at five of the most important title run-in matches of the era:

Newcastle United v Manchester United (March 1996)

[Watch Video]

Having been twelve points clear at the top of the league on Christmas Day 1995, Kevin Keegan's side had taken a knock to their title-winning credentials when going down at Old Trafford two days later but quickly got back on their horse again with five consecutive victories that saw them through to mid-February.


The problem was, Ferguson's United were matching them stride for stride with the return fixture at St James's Park set for March 4th.

But by the time the Red Devils had made their way to the North East the gap was whittled to just four points after Keegan's men fell to West Ham at Upton Park and drew with City at Maine Road before welcoming their nearest competition.

Despite battering United, they couldn't find a way past Peter Schmeichel and when Eric Cantona put United ahead seven minutes into the second half you could just feel the title slipping away for the Magpies. United would eventually go on to win the league by four points.


Liverpool v Chelsea (April 2014)


It was this week five years ago that the Premier League witnessed one of its most iconic moments when a Liverpool side buoyed by a wave of anticipation and enthusiasm "slipped up" at home to Chelsea in a crucial game that would play a huge role in deciding where the 2013/14 title ended up.

If Brendan Rodgers side could overcome Chelsea then they surely held all the cards going into the final two games of the season.


They didn't, captain Steven Gerrard's slip on the stroke of half-time allowing Demba Ba to race through and score for Chelsea, who added a second on the break late-on as a desperate Liverpool side sought an equaliser.

Manchester City were the profiteers of the Merseysiders defeat, and after the Reds threw away a 3 goal lead to draw at Crystal Palace eight days later, the writing was on the wall.

Manchester United v Arsenal (March 1998)




It would be a clash that would define a rivalry that lasted almost two decades and you get the sense that Alex Ferguson knew it.

Arsene Wenger's Arsenal bedazzled their way to the top of the pile with a sensational unbeaten run that would last from the week before Christmas in 1997 to them eventually winning the league on May 3rd 1998 but by far and away the most significant of those victories came at Old Trafford in mid-March.

United held a nine-point lead over second-placed Arsenal going into the game and victory would see them stretch that to twelve and almost certainly clinch the title, even though the Frenchman's side still held three games in hand over their rivals.


Marc Overmars scored the winner cutting the gap to six before Arsenal would go on to win eight on the bounce, culminating in a title-clinching 4-0 victory over Everton in the Highbury sunshine with two games left to be played.

Manchester City v Leicester City (February 2016)


It was the fairy tale to take the lustre off every other sports fairy tale that had gone before when Leicester City won everyone's hearts with their stunning title-winning season in 2015/16.


Written off more or less weekly throughout the season, the side's true mettle was tested in a daunting set of fixtures over twelve days at the start of February.

Having come past Liverpool at home thanks to a Jamie Vardy double on February 2nd, Claudio Ranieri's side travelled to the Etihad to take on a Manchester City that despite having a tough year, were hot favourites to overcome the Foxes on the night.

Any sense that the pressure would be too much for the unlikely heroes was erased with a sensational 3-1 victory, and despite going down 2-1 to nearest rivals Arsenal a week later, the East Midlands side had given themselves a cushion at the top that no one would puncture.

Manchester City v Manchester United (April 2012)


Perhaps the season to end all seasons, United had looked home and dry for the title only eight days earlier when cruising 4-2 at home to Everton going into the dying minutes at Old Trafford.

Goals from Marouane Fellaini and Stephen Pienaar however rescued a point for the Toffees and blew the title race asunder.

Going into the Matchweek 36 tie at the Etihad, City still trailed United by three points but knew that if they could grab a victory in the crucial derby encounter, they would haul themselves in front of their neighbours with two games remaining in the bid to lift their first ever Premier League trophy.

Step forward captain Vincent Kompany who rocketed a header past David De Gea in first-half stoppage time to claim the spoils.

There was the small matter of the Aguerrrrrrrrrrroooooooooo on the final day of the season that eventually settled in jaw-dropping style for the blue half of Manchester.

SEE ALSO: Report: Van Dijk Has Beaten Sterling To PFA Players Player Of The Year Title

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