English Premiership: The club-by-club verdict

The English Premiership report cards for the four that return to the Champions League …

1st Manchester United

On-pitch moment of the season

Ryan Giggs, one of football’s genuine good guys, scoring the goal that effectively confirmed the championship—a poetic moment on the day he equalled Sir Bobby Charlton’s appearances record.

Off-pitch moment of the season

The dignity and class that was demonstrated on February 6 2008—the 50th anniversary of the Munich disaster—and the following weekend’s game against Manchester City.

Player who must not be sold

Cristiano Ronaldo (and he won’t be).

Greatest goal

Nani’s run and 30-yard shot against Middlesbrough.

Most embarrassing moment

Losing, home and away, to Manchester City for the first time in 38 years.

Effect of manager’s shopping

Considerable. Anderson was outstanding. Nani, though erratic, demonstrated great potential. Owen Hargreaves recovered from a difficult start to the season.

The season in five words

Glory, goals, Munich, harmony, Ronaldo.

2nd Chelsea

On-pitch moment of the season

Michael Ballack’s coolly taken late penalty against Manchester United, then Andriy Shevchenko’s goal line clearance moments later.

Off-pitch moment of the season

News that Jose Mourinho had left.

Player who must not be sold

Ricardo Carvalho was outstanding at centre-half, his performances often going unnoticed alongside John Terry.

Greatest goal

Juliano Belletti belting in from distance against Tottenham.

Most embarrassing moment

Chants of “You don’t know what you’re doing” at Avram Grant as he substituted Ballack and Makelele with the side trailing against Arsenal. His replacements helped turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 win.

Effect of manager’s shopping

Grant bought Nicolas Anelka in January, who contributed a solitary league goal if plenty of slick approach work.

The season in five words

So near yet so far.

3rd Arsenal

On-pitch moment of the season

The comeback from 2-0 down and to win 3-2 in the last minute at Bolton Wanderers with 10 men was blistering.

Off-pitch moment of the season

The announcement that the club’s former vice-chairman, David Dein, sold his 14,58% stake to the Russian steel magnate Alisher Usmanov, prompting fears of a hostile takeover bid.

Player who must not be sold

Cesc Fábregas, the club’s best player and the heartbeat of the side.

Greatest goal

Emmanuel Adebayor’s glorious spin and volley from distance at White Hart Lane to complete the rout of Tottenham.

Most embarrassing moment

William Gallas kicking an advertising hoarding, refusing to acknowledge James McFadden’s last-minute penalty and then staging a bizarre sit-in protest at the final whistle at St Andrew’s.

Effect of manager’s shopping

Eduardo da Silva had his leg mangled, an injury that helped expose Arséne Wenger’s decision not to strengthen in the mid-winter transfer window.

The season in five words

Scintillating until squad depth exposed.

4th Liverpool

On-pitch moment of the season

John Arne Riise’s own-goal against Chelsea—and the audible gasp that followed.

Off-pitch moment of the season

Not a moment but the ownership feud between Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

Player who must not be sold

Fernando Torres. A record 24 Premier League goals in his debut season shattered the myth of foreigners requiring time to settle.

Greatest goal

Torres’s dummy and finish against Newcastle was outstanding, but the importance of his Champions League strike against Arsenal tips the balance.

Most embarrassing moment

Alfie Potter putting Havant & Waterlooville ahead at Anfield for the second time in the FA Cup.

Effect of manager’s shopping

Attracting a striker of Torres’s calibre was a masterstroke. Martin Skrtel, signed in January, will bolster an already impressive central defence. Failed to address weaknesses on flanks and at full-back.

The season in five words

Thank heavens for European football.

… And the ones that got the chop

18th Reading

On-pitch moment of the season

The 3‑1 victory over Liverpool at the Madejski Stadium in December.

Off-pitch moment of the season

The refusal by Ibrahima Sonko, whose form made him a defensive liability, and Emerse Faé, the club-record signing who made only three Premier League starts, to play for the reserves.

Player who must not be sold

Marcus Hahnemann—arguably Reading’s most consistent performer.

Greatest goal

Marek Matejovksy’s thunderbolt at Anfield.

Most embarrassing moment

Dealing with another Leroy Lita misdemeanour after the striker invited a tabloid exposé when he circulated video footage of his antics with a “mysterious brunette” to friends and teammates.

Effect of manager’s shopping

Liam Rosenior, Kalifa Cissé and Faé all failed to make an impact and Marek Matejovksy’s arrival in January was a case of too little too late.

The season in five words

Second-season syndrome strikes again.

19th Birmingham

On-pitch moment of the season

Sebastian Larsson’s 90th-minute winner at White Hart Lane, which secured a 3-2 win in Alex McLeish’s first game.

Off-pitch moment of the season

Hossam Ghaly’s agent calling Steve Bruce to tell the then Birmingham manager that his client was not happy with the standard of the players at the club.

Player who must not be sold

Larsson—the Swede has been one of the few success stories.

Greatest goal

The free kick with which Larsson beat Liverpool’s José Reina last month.

Most embarrassing moment

David Sullivan and Karren Brady spending time with City of London police or the board selling a significant stake to Carson Yeung on the eve of the season.

Effect of manager’s shopping

The arrival of 11 new faces in the summer brought quantity rather than quality. James McFadden and David Murphy, who both joined in January, represented better business.

The season in five words

Has anyone seen Carson Yeung?

20th Derby County

On-pitch moment of the season

The final whistle on September 17. The 1-0 victory over Newcastle was their last league win of the season.

Off-pitch moment of the season

Robbie Savage reports for training and, alluding to the impressive facilities, remarks: “I thought the gates to my house had opened but the drive was a bit short.”

Player who must not be sold

Giles Barnes failed to live up to the hype during a difficult season, but most supporters would be sad to see him leave.

Greatest goal

Kenny Miller’s 25-yard winner against Newcastle.

Most embarrassing moment

Too many to mention, although off the field the revelations about Paul Jewell’s personal life would be difficult to beat.

Effect of manager’s shopping

Paying £3,5-million for Rob Earnshaw and then never giving him a game made as much sense as signing Robbie Savage.

The season in five words

Worst-ever Premier League team.

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