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The most unlikely champions

There now follows a ranking of the most unlikely champions of the English Premier League. Criteria included club reputation, preseason expectations, and overall league performance during the season.

  1. Leicester City 2015-6: Having just escaped the drop in the previous season, Leicester were 5,000:1 long shots going into the season. But under new manager Claudio Ranieri, the Foxes took the league by storm. They have lost only three matches all year, and the title was sealed with last week’s draw between Tottenham and Chelsea.
  2. Manchester City 2011-2: Their new Abu Dhabi backers helped earn City their first title in the Premier League era. Crosstown rivals Manchester United led by eight points with six matches to play, but City then won three consecutive matches. On the last day, they scored twice in stoppage time to steal the championship.
  3. Manchester United 1995-6: Newcastle United saw a lead of twelve points in January slip away, as Man Utd defeated Middlesbrough 3-0 on the final day.
  4. Manchester City 2013-4: The lead changed hands 25 times over the course of the season, with City pipping Liverpool to the title on the last day.
  5. Manchester United 2002-3: Arsenal began the season strongly and led by eight points in early March, but Man Utd swooped in late and claimed the title.
  6. Manchester United 1996-7: Alex Ferguson’s charges were in a desperate situation after two heavy losses early on, but they rallied and took over first place by January.
  7. Manchester United 2008-9: Liverpool beat Man Utd in both matches, but it was United who finished top.
  8. Chelsea 2009-10: In their first season under Carlo Ancelotti, the Blues set a new record with 103 goals over the season, eight of them coming on the last day of the season when they crushed Wigan Athletic to secure the title over Manchester United.
  9. Manchester United 1998-9: Arsenal were within touching distance of a second consecutive title, but a loss to Leeds United in the penultimate match left the door open. Man Utd calmly strode through with a 2-1 win on the last day, starting off a league-FA Cup-Champions League treble.
  10. Arsenal 1997-8: Manchester United were eleven points clear at the start of March. Arsenal, however, had three matches in hand, and the Gunners fired away. They won the title by a point.
  11. Manchester United 2007-8: Man Utd won their tenth title of the Premier League era, a last day win over Wigan Athletic making it official.
  12. Chelsea 2004-5: Though Arsenal were the odds on choice, Chelsea turned in a historic performance, conceding only 15 goals and setting a new record with 95 points. It was their first title of the Premier League era, and only their second ever.
  13. Arsenal 2001-2: Liverpool and Manchester United challenged for the title, but both faltered late on. The Gunners won at Old Trafford to secure the title with one match remaining, part of a thirteen match win streak to end the season.
  14. Blackburn Rovers 1994-5: The recent years had seen Blackburn break the transfer record twice [Alan Shearer and then Chris Sutton], and the heavy investment from steel magnate Jack Walker paid off with Rovers’ first major trophy in 67 years. Blackburn finished one point ahead of Manchester United despite losing on the last day.
  15. Manchester United 1992-3: The inaugural Premier League title went to Old Trafford, despite a strong performance from Aston Villa. Man Utd won their first English championship in a quarter century.
  16. Manchester United 1993-4: A March loss to Blackburn Rovers erased what was left of Man Utd’s sixteen point cushion, but a strong finish to the campaign meant that the Red Devils wrapped up the title with two matches to play.
  17. Chelsea 2005-6: The Blues secured the title with a 3-0 win over Manchester United, who ended up second, eight points back.
  18. Arsenal 2003-4: New Chelsea backer Roman Abramovich led many to predict a purchased championship, but it was the north London club’s year. Arsenal went unbeaten the entire season, led by Thierry Henry’s 30 goals.
  19. Manchester United 2006-7: Securing the title with two matches to play, Man Utd won 28 of their 38 matches.
  20. Manchester United 2010-1: The Red Devils won the league by nine points, with Dimitar Berbatov tying Carlos Tevez for the golden boot with 20 goals.
  21. Manchester United 2000-1: A convincing 6-1 win over Arsenal in late February made the remainder of the season all but academic, as the Red Devils finished ten points clear to win their third title on the trot.
  22. Chelsea 2014-5: With José Mourinho back at the helm, the Blues were once again unstoppable.
  23. Manchester United 2012-3: Man Utd won the league with a minimum of fuss, leading City by eleven points. The title was decided in April.
  24. Manchester United 1999-2000: Man Utd destroyed all competition, scoring 97 goals on their way to an eighteen point lead over closest rivals Arsenal.