How the League was Won: The Last 15 Minutes

No team has scored more important goals in the final 15 minutes of games this season than Manchester United.

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 their opening two 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.

Date: Saturday 1 January 2011
Game: West Brom 1-2 Manchester United
Wayne Rooney headed in the first Premier League goal of 2011 inside 3 minutes before West Brom’s defence had got out of bed. To think this was an easy win for Manchester United was a mistake. James Morrison scored a spectacular equaliser in the 14th minute, before West Brom had a legitimate shout for a penalty when Gary Neville brought down Graeme Dorrans inside the penalty area as the last man. Manchester United rode their luck in this New Year’s encounter and were fortunate not to be behind as Peter Odemwingie scuffed a second half penalty wide, before Javier Hernandez was left unmarked from a corner to head home Manchester United’s winner in the 75th minute.
Result: Manchester United are ahead of Manchester City on goal difference with 2 games in hand, having played their 19th of the season on New Year’s day.

Date: Tuesday 25 January 2011
Game: Blackpool 2-3 Manchester United
Craig Cathcart and DJ Campbell had stunningly given Blackpool a 2-0 half time lead over Manchester United on a cold Tuesday night at Bloomfield Road. Sir Alex Ferguson may have got under his side’s skin at half time, and introduced Ryan Giggs for Darron Gibson at the break. Blackpool started to tire in the second half and the comeback was started in the 72nd minute; 6 minutes after Javier Hernandez was introduced for Wayne Rooney. Dimitar Berbatov scored the first; 2 minutes before Chicharito equalised. And it was the Premier League’s leading goalscorer, Berbatov who won the game in the 88th minute when he lashed home Paul Scholes’ throughball. This was Blackpool’s third consecutive defeat as their season began fading out after Christmas.
Result: This extended Manchester United’s lead over Arsenal to 5 points after 23 games.

Date: Saturday 12 February 2011
Game: Manchester United 2-1 Manchester City
A week after losing at Wolves, Wayne Rooney’s acrobatic and goal-of-the-season candidate effectively ends Manchester City’s title hopes as Manchester United do the business over their rivals once again at Old Trafford.
Result: Manchester United maintain their 4-point lead over Arsenal with 26 games played.

Date: Saturday 19 March 2011
Game: Manchester United 1-0 Bolton
Manchester United looked like they may be dropping points at Old Trafford for only the second time this season when Jonny Evans was sent off with 15 minutes to go against Bolton when the score was still 0-0. However, up stepped Dimitar Berbatov to be the hero once again this season when he bundled home Nani’s parried shot.
Result: Arsenal drop 2 points at West Brom and trail Manchester United by 5 points, with a game in hand; the leaders having played 30 games.

Date: Saturday 2 April 2011
Game: West Ham 2-4 Manchester United
Mark Noble had converted two penalties to give West Ham a 2-0 lead at half time in a game they had rarely threatened in. Javier Hernandez was introduced for Patrice Evra at half time, but it was a Wayne Rooney hat trick in the space of 15 minutes that turned the game on its head between the 65th and 79th minute. Queue his celebration that earned the England star a two-game ban, before Hernandez ended the contest with United’s 4th, coming in the 84th minute.
Result: Later that day, Arsenal are head 0-0 at home to Blackburn as their season continues to fall apart at the end and Manchester United have a 7 point lead with 7 games to play; Arsenal with 1 game in hand.

Date: Saturday 23 April 2011
Game: Manchester United 1-0 Everton
After 82 minutes of this game, Manchester United hadn’t scored a goal in 275 minutes of football (excluding stoppage time), following their 1-0 defeat to Manchester City in the FA Cup, and being held 0-0 at St James’ Park. A deflected Antonio Valencia cross changes things when Javier Hernandez heads home at the back stick to score the winner. At the time, this was regarded as the goal that won the title, but defeat at Arsenal the following weekend would still give Chelsea hope.
Result: Manchester United lead Chelsea by 6 points with 4 games to go.

Despite Phil Dowd trying to run time off the clock, Wayne Rooney’s penalty was converted in the 73rd minute yesterday. Not late enough to be added to the list, but it was the goal that won Manchester United the 2010/11 Premier League crown.

Ryan Giggs participated in a record-setting 573rd Premier League appearance, surpassing David James’ previously set record.