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Premier League season review: Liverpool, Man City, Man Utd, Newcastle


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By Stephen Donovan

Wednesday 14 May 2014

Liverpool


Premier League: 2nd


FA Cup: Fifth round


League Cup: Third round


suarez


As Brendan Rodgers began his second season as Liverpool manager, few gave the club a realistic chance of finishing in the top four and ensuring qualification for the Champions League for the first time in five years.


He not only delivered that, he had the club and its hugely passionate fan base daring to dream of a first league title for 24 years. The Reds almost had it in their grasp, only to succumb to the more expensively assembled Manchester City in the final reckoning.


It was August when the Northern Irishman began to work his magic, rescuing a seemingly irretrievable situation to secure star man Luis Suarez’ long-term future when that had looked much more likely to lie at Real Madrid.


Once he returned after missing the early weeks of the season through suspension, he was mesmeric. His partnership with Daniel Sturridge was blossoming to the extent that Liverpool were topping the Premier League at Christmas, only for consecutive defeats to Manchester City and Chelsea to force them to play catch-up.


It was a task they rose to exceptionally, thrashing then-leaders Arsenal to begin an 11-match winning run in which they scored goals galore to move on to the brink of glory. But their leaky defence came back to haunt them in the final weeks, in games against Chelsea and Crystal Palace, which saw them narrowly miss out.


Player of the season: A man much maligned at the start of the season, Luis Suarez showed his brilliance time and again upon his return from suspension, with many moments of magic - and 31 goals in 32 games - earning him the Premier League Golden Boot and both the PFA and FWA Player of the Year awards.


Best moment of the season: They may have put Arsenal, Everton and Manchester United to the sword, but the win over Manchester City in April was the match and the result that had Liverpool truly believing that 2014 could be the year in which they finally won the Premier League. Philippe Coutinho fired in a wonderful winner following Vincent Kompany’s sliced clearance.


Worst moment of the season: Steven Gerrard’s unfortunate slip could be remembered for years to come as the moment that the Premier League title was snatched away from Liverpool. It led to Demba Ba giving Chelsea a lead that would not be surrendered, and gave City all the encouragement they needed to make their final push.



Manchester City


Premier League: 1st


Champions League: Second round


FA Cup: Quarter-finals


League Cup: Winners


The task for new Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini was to win five trophies in as many years, while making an impact on the European stage. He certainly made the ideal start, winning the Premier League title in his first season in English football after opening his account with a Capital One Cup success over Sunderland.


On his way to becoming the first non-European boss to lift the Premier League, Pellegrini introduced a hugely entertaining style of football. City were often in irresistible form at the Etihad Stadium, hitting Tottenham for six, smashing seven past Norwich City without reply, and netting four against bitter rivals Manchester United.


In the early months, form at home was nothing short of exceptional, but their away record was threatening to derail any hopes of regaining their title, picking up just four points from their first 18 on the road. Things gradually began to get better, but they were still playing catch-up right until the final weeks of the season. However a strong finish, to overturn a deficit to Liverpool which once stood at seven points, saw them clinch the league on the final day.


City finished the season with 102 league goals and 157 in all competitions, with four players - including the outstanding Yaya Toure - scoring over 20. The only regret was falling short to Barcelona in the Champions League, but merely reaching the knockout stages was enough to better Roberto Mancini’s efforts.


Player of the season: Yaya Toure looked stronger than ever as he forged a hugely effective partnership with summer signing Fernandinho. Arguably the most influential player in the Premier League, the Ivorian netted a sensational 24 goals from a central midfield position, many of which came from distance, such as his screamer in the Capital One Cup final.


Best moment of the season: Victory in their last five matches ensured Manchester City ended the season as champions, and it was all decided on the final day with victory over West Ham United. Goals from Samir Nasri and captain Vincent Kompany sparked delirious scenes across the blue half of Manchester.


Worst moment of the season: By the end of October, City’s away record was becoming an increasing cause for concern, and the form of Joe Hart was not helping matters. His calamitous error allowed Fernando Torres to snatch a 2-1 victory for Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and led to the England goalkeeper being dropped.



Manchester United


Premier League: 7th


Champions League: Quarter-finals


FA Cup: Third round


League Cup: Semi-finals


It was always going to be a tough ask for David Moyes to guide Manchester United to yet another Premier League title in his first season in charge. However, nobody expected him to be gone by the end of the season with the club having failed to qualify for European competition. The man christened 'The Chosen One' was proven to be not up to the job.


As it was, Ryan Giggs was left to take control of the team for the final four games ahead of the expected arrival of Dutch national team boss Louis van Gaal in the summer.


The first signs that Moyes would struggle came when they suffered Manchester derby embarrassment at the Etihad Stadium, before they were stunned 2-1 by West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford - the first of an unprecedented seven home defeats they would suffer in the Premier League.


Marouane Fellaini, United's only significant summer signing, failed to make an impact and although January record signing Juan Mata showed some impressive form, the damage was already done. He could not prevent two more home humiliations against bitter rivals Liverpool and Manchester City.


The cup competitions also failed to lift their spirits, with Swansea City putting a premature end to their FA Cup campaign and Sunderland winning in dramatic circumstances in the Capital One Cup. The final straw for Moyes came when he saw his side lose to former club Everton, as United's first season since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson became one to forget.


Player of the season: Aside from emerging youngster Adnan Januzaj, the only man to come away with any real credit after a dismal season was goalkeeper David De Gea, who continues to grow into his role and become a more commanding presence. Time and again, he kept the score down to some degree of respectability against the top clubs.


Best moment of the season: Highlights were few and far between. But the 1-0 victory over Arsenal in November, earned by Robin van Persie’s near-post header, prompted some to believe that the Moyes era had kick-started, and a title challenge could be ahead. It did begin their best run of the season.


Worst moment of the season: There were many bad days for United, but the 3-0 hammering dished out by Liverpool in March was the most chastening. It truly highlighted the decline that the club had undergone, at a time where their opponents had risen to become title challengers. It was men against boys.



Newcastle United


Premier League: 10th


FA Cup: Third round


League Cup: Fourth round


This was very much a season of two halves on Tyneside. The controversial return of Joe Kinnear as director of football in June, coupled with a lack of summer signings, was quickly forgotten after a 5-1 victory over nine-man Stoke City on Boxing Day left Newcastle lying sixth after a tremendous run of form that left them just six points off the top.


By then, the Magpies had already garnered enough points to prevent themselves from being dragged into a relegation battle. It is just as well they had, as the season would end the club in something approaching turmoil, with Kinnear having resigned and supporters calling on manager Alan Pardew to leave after they would end the season with seven defeats in eight.


What really turned the tide was the sale of Yohan Cabaye to Paris St. Germain at the end of January. There was such ill feeling that arguably Newcastle’s best player had left, and he had not been adequately replaced, leading owner Mike Ashley to be accused of a lack of ambition.


In the final reckoning, they were left to thank their only significant signing, loanee Loic Remy, whose goals helped Newcastle into what was a comfortable mid-table finish. However, the manner with which the campaign fizzled out will leave most supporters with a bitter taste in the mouth.


Player of the season: Loic Remy, on loan from Queens Park Rangers, was one of the few standout players in a very average season for Newcastle. He provided rare quality and finishing ability, and helped to win games single-handedly, particularly in the first half of the season. Remy finished as the club’s top scorer, with 14 goals.


Best moment of the season: Everything was rosy for the Toon Army in December as they surged to go within range of a European place. The most memorable victory of that run came at Old Trafford, where they had not won for 40 years prior to the moment when Yohan Cabaye fired a shot low into the corner of the net.


Worst moment of the season: They may have lost at the Stadium of Light, but the way Newcastle played in the return fixture with arch rivals Sunderland was difficult for the supporters to take. It was a flat performance, capitalised upon by the industry of Adam Johnson, Fabio Borini and Jack Colback, who sealed a 3-0 victory for the strugglers.



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