Since the formation of the Premier League in 1992, Manchester United have dominated the landscape of modern day English football by winning 11 league titles in 18 seasons. In the first nine league seasons, United triumphed on a remarkable seven occasions, while in the nine subsequent, their level of success diminished, picking up four. While four titles is still an incredibly impressive return from Sir Alex Fergsuon, it also points towards a slight shift in power at the top of the English game.
United and England star Wayne Rooney believes the Premier League has become increasingly harder to win since he signed for the club in 2004, claiming last season was the most competitive he has ever had as a professional. Rooney confessed;
“I think the Premier League has got progressively harder to win. In previous seasons you might have had straightforward games where the top clubs could afford to rest players, but that’s not the case anymore.
Nowadays it’s hard to leave players out because every game is competitive and difficult. Last season was certainly the most competitive I’ve played in. Many of the top teams lost more games than you probably would expect.”
The statistics certainly appear to support Rooney’s views. Last season the top fop four sides lost a staggering 32 games between them, compared to 17 the season before and just 15 during the 07/08 season. This suggests the gap between the top sides and the rest of the league is reducing, with Tottenham Hotspur managing to break “The Big Four’s” dominance by replacing Liverpool in the Champions league positions last season. But why has the league become more competitive? The astronomical amount of money the Premier League generates certainly has a lot to do with it.
Mind-boggling broadcasting and sponsorship deals have created such vast wealth in the Premier League that most clubs can now afford to fund multi-million pound moves for the best available talent. Or if they don’t, they can easily borrow it from the banks who are more than willing to lend them the money in return for high-interest repayments. Manchester United’s dominance coincided with the formation of the Premier League, giving them a timely advantage over their rivals. United were at the top at the right time, and the increase in wealth brought through the Premier League and the Champions League helped consolidate their position as one of top sides in the country. The rest of the league is now starting to find the finances to match United’s and the club’s dominance at the top is being challenged. The Premier League is the richest in the world and is now being targeted by wealthy businessmen looking for a piece of the Premier League cash cow. The Premier League offers unrivalled financial opportunities and businessmen are clambering for their very own ready-made investment vehicle.
Clubs challenging at the top now have ridiculously wealthy owners who can back their plans in the transfer market by signing the world’s best players. Wealthy owners gave both Blackburn Rovers and Chelsea the resources to challenge United at the top and there will be more teams looking for similar investment in the future. City are now the richest club in the world and will be a real threat to United’s longstanding dominance over the next few years. Liverpool could also soon be able to call upon a bottomless pit of money should Chinese businessman Kenny Huang’s proposed takeover bid go through.
Last season produced one of the most exciting title races in recent history. However with Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal all struggling to put a run of results together to pull away in the title race, the quality of the league’s top teams were questioned. While you could argue the top sides were not as ruthless as in previous years, dropping points in games you would normally expect them to win; you must give credit to the rest of the teams in the league. Chelsea won the title with the lowest points tally seen in the last five years with 86, suggesting the teams that make up the rest of the league are becoming a lot more competitive. Where traditionally you would mostly have two sides competing against each other, next season you could have up to six sides competing for the title.
The rest of the league’s clubs will soon be forced to find major investors if they are to continue to compete at the top level. Millionaires are being replaced by billionaires and to be competitive in today’s market you need to have money. Investment is changing the face of English football and Manchester United face tough challenges ahead if they are to continue to dominate for the next 20 years.
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