What a crazy season! The mad moments that made 2011/12 the best ever
22:20 GMT, 14 May 2012
It has been a season of unrivalled drama on and off the pitch, not least in the Premier League, but also on the international stage as well.
Fabio Capello sensationally quit his job as England manager, Luis Suarez was banned in relation to racially abusing Patrice Evra, Harry Redknapp was dragged through court and the world united in support of Fabrice Muamba who 'died' for 76 minutes during an FA Cup match.
These are the moments which shaped the season, as told by the Sportsmail experts who where there throughout a campaign which is perhaps the most memorable in recent history.
MANCHESTER UNITED 1-6 MANCHESTER CITY by Ian Ladyman
We have grown used to watching stunning derby games between these two clubs in recent years. But we had never seen anything like this.
City had started the season well and were domestically unbeaten, having already scored four against Swansea, Blackburn and Aston Villa and five at Tottenham.
This was Old Trafford, though. Surely City would be content with a 1-0 victory – or even a draw – against rivals that had already shocked them a little by turning round a 2-0 half-time deficit to win the Community Shield.
The joy of six: Manchester City thrashed rivals United at Old Trafford early in the season
As it happened, City ran amok in their neighbours back garden. Mario Balotelli – fresh from setting fire to his own bathroom – lit the fuse with a superb first half goal and revealed his now famous T-shirt carrying the slogan: “Why Always Me”.
City were ultimately helped by the sending-off of Jonny Evans with the score at 1-0 but it was the dismissive, buccaneering style of the visitors’ football that proved so stunning.
Balotelli and Sergio Aguero added second half goals before a late reply from Darren Fletcher persuaded City to really put their foot down.
From 3-1 in the 89th minute to 6-1 at full-time. Almost seven months on, it’s still hard to believe it really happened.
TITLE RACE SINCE MARCH by Ian Ladyman
As he stood in his goalmouth at the Emirates Stadium and watched Mario Balotelli earn himself yet another red card, Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart turned and took out his frustrations with a well-aimed kick at the nearest goalmouth.
'Stupid' was his rather obvious view on the whole thing and it was easy to understand. City’s slump in form and discipline had seen them hand an eight-point lead – and with it the title – to Manchester United.
Stupid! Joe Hart's frustration appeared to signal the end of the title race… but it was just another twist
Or so it seemed. In pubs across Manchester, City fans admitted it was over. Bookmakers paid out on a United Premier League triumph and Roberto Mancini started to wonder if he would still have a job next season. And then something happened.
Well, two things to be precise. Free from pressure, City started to play once more like they had before Christmas. Four goals at home against West Brom were followed by six at Norwich.
United, meanwhile, fell out of the saddle. A 1-0 defeat a Wigan was bad enough but the 4-4 draw at home to Everton that followed a week-and-half later was the catastrophe that really undid them.
As United tottered, City once again drew tall and their defeat of their rivals in a decisive derby at the Etihad Stadium on April 30 spoke volumes for the way the tide had turned. United tried to hang on, but couldn’t.
SUAREZ-GATE by Dominic King
Never in the history of the Premier League has an issue proven as divisive as the row that exploded between Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra at Anfield on October 15.
Unpleasant and undignified, not to mention exceptionally sensitive, the resultant fall out was toxic, became tribal and provided a stain on what was otherwise a thrilling campaign.
Race row: Luis Suarez initial wrongdoing attracted as much criticism as Liverpool's reaction
Suarez was eventually found guilty of using the word ‘negro’ when he clashed with the Manchester United defender but it was the way Liverpool reacted to that which was so controversial.
Their players wore T-shirts in support of the Uruguayan before a game at Wigan in December, their right-back Glen Johnson became embroiled in a row with former United defender Paul McGrath over it and the nadir was reached when Evra and Suarez failed to shake hands before the return game at Old Trafford in February.
It was an unseemly episode, one that hopefully provided salutary lessons for all involved.
JOHN TERRY/ANTON FERDINAND RACE ROW by Matt Lawton
A serious situation that has had massive ramifications. It has cost John Terry the England captaincy for the second time in his career but has also cost the Football Association an England manager four months before the European Championship. It might yet cost Terry his place at Euro 2012 too.
Terry should be presumed innocent until proven guilty but Chelsea’s request to Westminster Magistrates’ Court to hold the trial after the tournament has caused serious problems for the FA.
The FA were right to act as they did with regard to Terry and the armband; as right as Fabio Capello was wrong to publicly criticise the decision and then quit over the issue.
See you in court: John Terry and Anton Ferdinand clashed at Loftus Road
Capello failed to understand what a sensitive issue this is, and committed a serious error of judgement as a result.
But let’s not forget Ferdinand here either. He never even made the complaint to the Metropolitan Police and yet he has received death threats as well as abuse during games from Chelsea fans.
English football has made great progress in combating racism but this episode has highlighted the fact that there remains much work to be done.
CAPELLO DEPARTURE by Matt Lawton
Thanks for the memories: Fabio Capello
It all happened on one crazy day in February. No sooner had Harry Redknapp been acquitted of tax evasion charges in Southwark Crown Court – and in most people’s minds therefore been given the all clear to become the next England manager – than Capello had resigned over John Terry.
As Sportsmail highlighted, his position became virtually untenable the moment Capello gave an off-message interview to Italian television. He said he did not support the FA's decision to strip Terry of the captaincy and in doing so he put his employers in an extremely difficult position.
Had he apologised and agreed to a counter-statement, the situation might have been resolved. But he refused and after meeting with FA chairman David Bernstein at Wembley they both agreed it would be best if he left.
So for the best part of 24million, what exactly did England get A disastrous 2010 World Cup and someone else in charge just when it seemed everything he had learned might be put to good use at Euro 2012. It wasn’t Redknapp in the end; it was Roy Hodgson.
And from stepping down as West Brom manager on Sunday, he has two whole days before naming his England squad on Wednesday. Brilliant.
CHELSEA BEATING BARCELONA by Matt Lawton
Nobody gave them a chance. They were the Chelsea pensioners led by a Stamford Bridge old boy with only limited managerial experience. They were on course for their lowest finish in the Barclays Premier League since Roman Abramovich bought the club.
They were also playing the finest football team the world has ever seen; a Barcelona side seemingly destined to meet Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid in the Champions League final.
But Barcelona don’t like playing these particular Chelsea players and Roberto Di Matteo had the wit and wisdom to approach the two legs of the semi-final tie with that in mind.
Even then, though, he did not legislate for the loss of John Terry to a red card and a two–goal deficit in that second game at the Nou Camp.
Cheeky chip: Ramires kick-started a remarkable Chelsea revival against Barcelona
What followed was nothing short of remarkable; one of the most stunning performances in the history of the competition.
First came the goal from Ramires that levelled the tie and essentially put Chelsea through on the away goals rule, then the defiant, determined defensive display.
It was crowned by a second Chelsea goal, scored by Fernando Torres, but it was the spirit and unity of these players that secured their passage to the final in Munich. Amazing.
FABRICE MUAMBA by Sami Mokbel
Not something I want to be part of ever again. It’s all a bit of a blur now, but I remember just catching a glimpse of Muamba as he collapsed to the floor.
The severity of the incident didn’t hit me at first, when you see a player hit the deck you always expect him to get up. The moment I knew it was something serious was when Owen Coyle came rushing on to the pitch.
The sight of macho footballers reduced to tears and saying prayers said it all – Muamba was fighting for his life.
Football united: The plight of Fabrice Muamba bought the very best out of the football family
But in the midst of one of the darkest days came a moment of light as both sets of supporters begun to chant the Bolton players name – which is something that will stay with me for as long as I live.
One of those days I would love to erase from my memory, but will never forget.
NEWCASTLE UNITED by Colin Young
When they returned from their hectic pre-season tour of the United States, Newcastle United were supposed to be in disarray.
Kevin Nolan, Joey Barton, Jose Enrique all followed Andy Carroll out of the exit door, and according to the Twits among us and them, Newcastle were heading for another relegation battle.
What transpired was arguably Newcastle’s most thrilling season since Kevin Keegan’s Entertainers nearly sneaked the Barclays Premier League title in 1996.
To finish above Chelsea, and still be on the brink of a return to the Champions League, is beyond the wildest dreams of anyone associated with the club. And that includes manager Alan Pardew.
Surprise package: Newcastle have upset the odds to finish fifth in the Premier League
Under his studious management, Newcastle have become a solid team, with the emphasis on team.
But they have been assisted by some brilliant individual contributions too, from Tim Krul’s emergence as a top keeper, captain Fabricio Coloccini’s commanding performances, the midfield partnership of Cheick Tiote and Yohan Cabaye, breathtaking skills of Hatem Ben Arfa, goals of Demba Ba (in the first half of the season) and the immediate impact of new No 9, Papiss Cisse, with his 13 goals in the second half. Has there been a better January signing
It won’t be easy. But more of the same next season please.
MANCHESTER UNITED 8 ARSENAL 2 by John Edwards
We should have known this season would be a departure from the norm when, just two weeks in, Arsenal suffered their heaviest defeat since travelling to Loughborough Town for a Division Two fixture on December 12, 1896.
They conceded eight without reply that day, but it came as little consolation to Arsene Wenger that his modern-day Gunners managed to pull two goals back.
They could have been level at 1-1, but for Robin Van Persie having a penalty saved, and there was the merest hint of a recovery when Theo Walcott made it 3-1 at half-time.
Bottom line: Arsenal's humiliation at Old Trafford was the club's worst result in 100 years
Any Arsenal optimism soon evaporated, though, as Wayne Rooney completed his hat-trick and Ashley Young took careful aim from 25 yards to round off a result that had mobile phone cameras by the hundred trained on the electronic scoreboard. 8-2
It was marked down as a freakish one-off, yet it set the tone for a season that retained its capacity to surprise throughout.
ROBIN VAN PERSIE by Laura Williamson
In 2011-12 we have finally seen the cool, lethal brilliance of a fully fit Robin van Persie.
The Arsenal striker has broken a string of records in his best season to date – equalling Thierry Henry by scoring 30 Premier League goals and netting against 17 top-flight teams.
He has been named Player of the Year by both his peers and the football writers after scoring 41 goals in all competitions for club and country during this campaign.
Dutch of class: Robin Van Persie enjoyed his best ever season for goals and fitness
But the most remarkable statistic of all The Dutchman played in all 38 of Arsenal’s Premier League matches this season. Never before has Van Persie been fit enough to play in more than 75 per cent of his club’s games.
It turns out the 28-year-old isn’t made of glass after all; more like solid gold.
NORWICH AND SWANSEA by Riath Al-Samarrai
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Norwich were expected to go straight back down and, as Brendan Rodgers delights in reminding people, ‘the bookies said there was more chance of seeing Elvis alive than little Swansea staying up’.
Norwich have since won at Tottenham, stuffed Newcastle and drawn with Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool, while Swansea out-passed and out-scored Arsenal and Manchester City.
The mass sulk that followed Swansea’s home draw against Chelsea said a lot about how expectations have changed in south Wales.
New kids on the block: Brendan Rodgers and Paul Lambert worked wonders with their teams
Both clubs have proven you can come up and thrive with attacking football – though Swansea’s style has drawn more attention – and each has reached midtable with plenty of players signed from the lower leagues. Norwich’s Grant Holt has even been touted for England.
Not that the clubs are full of mutual appreciation, though. David Fox celebrated Norwich’s win at Swansea in February by tweeting: ‘It’s never easy to go the Nou Camp, but I think we did well for a long ball team.’
REFEREES by Graham Poll
People often say you must be mad to be a referee well this wacky Premier league season has confirmed that.
Goals – there was Clint Hill’s headed ‘goal’ at The Reebok which Martin Atkinson did not give and Juan Mata’s effort which clearly did not cross the line in the FA Cup semi final that Atkinson gave as a goal; at least there were none scored off an inflatable ball this season.
Denial of goals – at St James’ Park after just four minutes Demba Ba was moving towards his opponents goal when he was fouled by Chelsea’s David Luiz – a clear red card but Mike Dean pulled out the yellow.
Cup controversy: Chelsea got a helping hand on-route to their FA Cup thrashing of Tottenham
At White Hart Lane the opposite appeared to happen as rear-most Bolton defender Gary Cahill was dispossessed by Scott Parker and reacted by grabbing Parker, it was definitely a foul. However, Parker was not heading towards goal, he was 45 yards from Bolton’s goal line and with luck he might have had the possibility of scoring; it was not an obvious chance to score. Stuart Attwell thought differently and wrongly dismissed Cahill.
Clearly wrong! – Mario Ballotelli escaped sanction for his stamp on Tottenham’s Scott Parker whilst Jack Rodwell was understandably baffled at his dismissal in the Merseyside derby.
Our top two ranked refs, Howard Webb and Martin Atkinson oversaw those games respectively.
And just bizarre – Andre Marriner appeared to commit the basic error of taking his eye off of the ball as Blackburn prepared to take a corner against Wigan.
In doing so he was not able to see that Yakubu missed the ball he was trying to touch and so Morten Gamst Pedersen was allowed to take the kick and play the ball a second time and set up Blackburn’s second goal.