The summer preceding the 2009/10 Premier League season was dominated by Cristiano Ronaldo's world-record £80m move to Real Madrid, meaning Manchester United were left to defend their crown without the player who had led them to the title in the previous three campaigns.
Carlo Ancelotti succeeded interim manager Guus Hiddink in the Chelsea hot seat, aiming to restore the Premier League trophy to Stamford Bridge for the first time in four years. He did just that, inspiring Chelsea to a close-fought title win over United, securing the title by just one point - United agonisingly close to claiming an unprecedented fourth consecutive Premier League triumph.
Chelsea's attacking triumvirate of Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka and Salomon Kalou proved too irresistible for the competition, spearheading a Chelsea side that recorded a record-breaking 103 league goals, with Drogba the campaign's top scorer, netting 29 times.
Premier League Table 2009/10
|Team||Games Played||Wins||Draws||Defeats||Goal Difference||Points|
|2) Man Utd||38||27||4||7||58||85|
The season proved one of the most exciting in recent memory, with Chelsea, United and Arsenal battling for top spot throughout; Arsenal tailing off during April - just as they have done this season.
Although relinquishing top spot on a number of occasions, Chelsea were the form team throughout, ruthlessly recording seven or more goals in a single match on four occasions, most notably when they demolished Wigan 8-0 on the final day to secure the title. Their attacking prowess combined perfectly with Ancelotti's trademark defensive discipline; John Terry and Ashley Cole proved lynchpins all season, despite Terry attracting controversy for his off-the-field relations with former team-mate Wayne Bridge's wife, culminating in the notorious 'handshake-gate'.
United ran them close all season, perfectly typified by their pulsating 4-3 win over 'noisy neighbours' Manchester City - Carlos Tevez making a controversial return to Old Trafford after joining their cross-town rivals in a contentious switch in the summer. Michael Owen dramatically won the game for United in the 96th minute, sending the United faithful into raptures, and leaving Ancelotti fearing failure when his Chelsea side responded in the worst way possible - a 3-1 defeat at Wigan, with goalkeeper Petr Cech sent off.
Sir Alex Ferguson and Ancelotti clashed for the first time when the pair met at Stamford Bridge in November, with Chelsea coming out on top after a late John Terry header. Both sides slipped up in the coming weeks, United against Aston Villa, and Chelsea at Manchester City - a victory for the Etihad club that could not prevent City boss Mark Hughes being given his marching orders days later.
Arsenal produced a stunning run of seven wins in nine matches, propelling them back into the title reckoning, which culminated in them topping the table by mid-January after coming from 2-0 down to beat Bolton 4-2 at the Emirates.
Manchester United visited the red side of North London at the end of January in a hotly contested top-of-the-table clash, the first of its kind to be broadcast worldwide in 3D by Sky. United emerged victorious, with Wayne Rooney's 100th Premier League goal ensuring a 3-1 win. Arsenal's season was left in pieces after a dreadful run following this defeat - their travails compounded by Danny Rose's stunning volley completing Spurs' defeat of their great North London rivals. Arsenal collapsed in spectacular fashion - just as they have this season - relinquishing a 2-goal lead in the final 10 minutes away to Wigan, losing 3-2 to end any chance of an unlikely first-place finish.
After slipping to third in March, Chelsea stormed back to the Premier League summit after emerging victorious in their all-or-nothing clash with Manchester United at Old Trafford. The tie was widely billed as winner-takes-all, with Chelsea going into it with the advantage - United were without star striker Wayne Rooney after he injured ankle ligaments in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final with Bayern Munich. Rooney went on to score a personal best 34 goals in all competitions, but could only watch on as United were overpowered 2-1, with a contentious goal from Didier Drogba sealing the win.
Ferguson was left to concede that his side were unlikely to eclipse Chelsea at the top, and this proved to be the case as Ancelotti's side steamrolled their remaining opponents, completing an FA Cup and Premier League double, beating Portsmouth 1-0 at Wembley, a week after pipping United by a single point on the final day of the season.