The inaugural Premier League season of 1992/93 saw the start of Manchester United’s decade-long dominance of English football. But Aston Villa fans from the time still remember it as the year they nearly won the Premier League under Ron Atkinson.
It wasn’t obvious from the outset that this was a team that would go on to top the table with just 6 games to go. They drew their first three games against Ipswich, Leeds and Southampton – but with a goal in each of those games, Dalian Atkinson showed he was kicking off the Premier League in style.
Manchester United were many people’s favourites, having been narrowly pipped to the last ever Division One title the previous year. But they also suffered a poor start to the season, losing their first two games to Sheffield United and Everton before drawing with Ipswich. In fact, Premier League betting markets were shocked to see title challenges emerging from QPR and Norwich.
Villa’s first win of the season came on 29th August when they beat Sheffield United 2-0 with goals from midfielder Garry Parker. And although they then lost their next game at home to Chelsea, The Villans followed that up with a run of 10 games without defeat. These included a 1-0 win over Manchester United who were still in mid-table at the time, and a 3-2 win at Wimbledon that saw Dalian Atkinson score a wonder goal that was voted Match of the Day’s goal of the season.
But it was the £2.3 million signing of Dean Saunders from Liverpool in September that gave Villa the impetus to challenge Alex Ferguson’s men for the title.
By Christmas, Aston Villa sat second in the table behind Norwich but had amassed a goal difference of +10, the second best in the Premier League. At the turn of the year, wins against Arsenal and Liverpool were followed by a 5-1 thumping of Middlesbrough and a 3-1 win over Sheffield United.
Four wins from five matches in February meant Aston Villa began March top of the table, 2 points ahead of Manchester United. But the Eric Cantona era had begun at Old Trafford, with the Red Devils now boasting a goal difference of +24. Saunders and Atkinson were still banging in goals for the Claret and Blues, and the team was playing free-flowing entertaining football inspired by solid performances from the likes of Garry Parker and Ray Houghton.
A 1-0 defeat to Norwich on 24th March saw The Canaries take top spot from Aston Villa who had a game in hand. But it all changed again the following week. Villa beat Nottingham Forest to put themselves back in pole position. However, when Fergie’s team beat Norwich 3-1, they went to the top of the league.
In mid-April, it looked all to play for still. But a 3-0 defeat to Blackburn on the same day as a Manchester United victory, opened up a 4-point gap and put a huge amount of pressure on Aston Villa who subsequently lost their final two games of the season. It was a disappointing end to what had been a fabulous season – but one that went down as one of the most exciting for the club in the Premier League era.
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