In this article, Lineker, Shearer & Micah rank the biggest upsets in Premier League history in their latest Match of the Day podcast.
When it comes to this topic, the trio take into account some of the more stand out results, who produced the most memorable of wins, who was underdogs going into it, who upset the big six, who made it a thrilling contest.
Liverpool 0-1 Barnsley (Richards: 8th, Shearer 10th)
Liverpool were trailing 1997-98 early-season pace-setters Manchester United and Blackburn Rovers by several points, but were still expected to beat a Barnsley side that had won just three of their first 14 games since winning promotion. Instead Danny Wilson’s team claimed a stunning win at Anfield on 22 November 1997. Liverpool were captained that day by Steve McManaman while Michael Owen featured up front. It wasn’t all bad news for Liverpool fans. The result sent neighbours Everton to the bottom of the table.
Shearer: My memories of this game? Not much to be honest! I recall Ashley Ward scoring. I know it was dramatic. Barnsley had endured a tough start to that season.
Richards: I don’t remember the game too vividly if I’m being totally honest.
Lineker: Glad to see you’ve both done your homework!
Burnley 1-0 Manchester United (Richards: 7th, Shearer 9th)
Burnley had lost 2-0 at Stoke City on the opening weekend of the 2009-10 season when they hosted defending champions Manchester United in their first Premier League home game after winning promotion via the play-offs. Roared on by a sell-out crowd at Turf Moor, the Clarets claimed a famous win on 19 August 2009 thanks to Robbie Blake’s goal. They would go on to beat Everton in their next match but boss Owen Coyle would later stun the club by leaving for Bolton Wanderers.
Shearer: You can just imagine the atmosphere at Turf Moor. A first Premier League home game and it’s Manchester United in town. It was obviously a great result for Burnley.
Richards: It wasn’t a massive upset.
Norwich City 3-2 Manchester City (Richards: 10th, Shearer 5th)
No-one saw this coming. Norwich had lost four of their first five league and cup games when they hosted defending champions Manchester City at Carrow Road on 14 September 2019. The Canaries were 2-0 up inside half an hour thanks to goals by Kenny McLean and Todd Cantwell. Sergio Aguero reduced the deficit on the stroke of half time but, in a thrilling match, Teemu Pukki restored the two-goal advantage before Rodri set up a grandstand finish.
Shearer: I remember analysing that game for Match of the Day and the way Norwich passed out from the back was unbelievable. It was one of those games that worked for them. I look at Norwich now and think ‘you’re making exactly the same mistakes you did the last time you were in the Premier League. Why?’
Leicester City 5-3 Manchester United (Richards: 9th, Shearer: 6th)
21 September 2014: Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United had already endured a difficult start to the season when their problems intensified as Nigel Pearson’s Leicester came from behind to seal the points in an eight-goal thriller. On a disastrous day for United, Tyler Blackett was sent off. The result left the Red Devils trailing Hull City in the Premier League table.
Shearer: Manchester United were 2-0 up and then led 3-1 with half an hour to go. winning 2-0 3-0. I could hear the excitement in the commentator’s voice as Leicester turned the game around.
Lineker: It was around about this time that people were starting to say ‘this Vardy is a bit of a handful’. I still find it difficult to get my head around it [Leicester’s success]. Even now I look back at their title win and think ‘how did that happen?’. I thought Leicester would fall away that season but it didn’t happen.
Manchester City 2-3 Crystal Palace (Richards: 5th, Shearer: 7th)
Andros Townsend smashed a sublime 30-yard volley to help Crystal Palace cause one of the biggest shocks of the 2018-19 season by claiming their first win at Manchester City for 28 years and ending the defending champions’ 100% home record in the top flight. The game appeared to be following a familiar script when Ilkay Gundogan put the hosts ahead before Jeffrey Schlupp equalised. Then Townsend gave the visitors the lead with a wonder goal and Luka Milivojevic’s penalty made it 3-1. Kevin de Bruyne scored a late second for City but Roy Hodgson’s Palace hung on for an incredible win.
Richards: Andros Townsend’s goal was sublime. City were on a good run and it was at Etihad Stadium. Once City start playing it’s impossible to play there. It had to be a wonder goal and Palace deserved it.
Lineker: I remember being in the Match of the Day office and every now and again everyone leaps up going ‘wow’ when they see something special. Townsend’s goal was one of those moments.
Crystal Palace 3-3 Liverpool (Richards: 6th, Shearer: 3rd)
Liverpool squandered a three-goal lead in the final 11 minutes at Crystal Palace to see their 2013-14 Premier League title hopes suffer a severe blow. The Reds had swept into a 3-0 lead at Selhurst Park in their penultimate league game of the season only for Dwight Gayle to seal a dramatic late Palace comeback. The point was actually enough to take Liverpool top of the table – but title rivals Manchester City had a game in hand and would go on to win the league.
Richards: Liverpool had lost at home to Chelsea in the previous game – the damage was already done. Manchester City went on to win the league by two points. Even if Liverpool had beaten Palace, City had a superior goal difference. I wanted Steven Gerrard to win a Premier League title because he’s top level.
Shearer: Luis Suarez was in tears that night. I can remember after the final whistle Gerrard going over to block the camera and console Suarez.
Manchester United 8-2 Arsenal (Richards: 1st, Shearer: 8th)
Manchester United inflicted total humiliation on Arsenal with a brutal victory over Arsene Wenger’s side at Old Trafford on 28 August 2011. It was Arsenal’s worst defeat since 1896 with Wenger forced to send out a makeshift side depleted by injuries and suspensions. Wayne Rooney hit a hat-trick while Ashley Young also made his mark with two stunning goals. Danny Welbeck, Nani and Park Ji-sung were United’s other scorers.
Richards: You cannot concede eight goals if you’re supposed to be a top club. I cannot believe Manchester City’s 6-1 win at Manchester United in 2011 is not on this list because that was an upset.
Shearer: Arsenal had a load of injuries and after this game they went and signed four or five players. I know it was a surprise for Manchester United to score eight and humiliate Arsenal like they did. But in terms of biggest Premier League upsets, it wasn’t an upset United beating Arsenal.
Watford 3-0 Liverpool (Richards: 2nd, Shearer: 4th)
Liverpool were running away with the title when they rocked up at Vicarage Road on 29 February 2020. Jurgen Klopp’s side had won their previous 18 Premier League games and another against Watford would have made history as the longest winning run in the English top flight. They never got going against a Hornets team that started the game in the relegation zone as Ismaila Sarr scored twice while captain Troy Deeney added a third. Despite this defeat, Liverpool were 22 points ahead of nearest rivals Manchester City with 10 games remaining.
Lineker: It was Liverpool’s first league defeat of the season. They had looked like they might have a chance of doing the Invincibles thing.
Shearer: Troy Deeney beat Liverpool up that afternoon – he was at his physical best. You never saw the Liverpool defence, with Virgil van Dijk in it, given the runaround too many times. That rarely happened.
Southampton 3-1 Manchester United (Richards: 3rd, Shearer: 2nd)
It remains one of the most bizarre incidents in Premier League history. Trailing 3-0 away to Southampton, Manchester United changed strips at half time on 13 April 1996. Having started the match at The Dell in grey shirts and white shorts, they ended it in their white and blue third strip because they were struggling to pick each other out.
Shearer: I’d like to know who the person was who went into the Manchester United dressing room and said ‘I can’t pick someone out because of the colour of the shirts’. Can you imagine Fergie’s reaction?
Lineker: A lot of teams have played in grey since and have done OK.
Richards: That’s definitely not allowed [changing kit]. I can’t remember anyone else doing this.
Bradford City 1-0 Liverpool (Richards: 4th, Shearer: 1st)
David Wetherall. A name forever etched into Bradford City folklore after the events on the final day of the season on 14 May 2000. Liverpool needed a win to qualify for the Champions League. Gerard Houllier’s Reds had to make do with a Uefa Cup place as Wetherall scored the winner to keep Bradford in the Premier League and spark a huge party at Valley Parade. Boss Paul Jewell would leave the club soon afterwards for relegated Sheffield Wednesday.
Shearer: Bradford had to get a result to stay up. Liverpool had to get a result to get into the top three to qualify for the Champions League. They missed out and Bradford ended up staying up. It was dramatic.
Richards: This should have been higher on my list to be honest. To win a game to stay in the league is massive.
Lineker: We didn’t do Bradford against Liverpool justice on the Match of the Day Top 10 great escapes podcast. This is our chance to make amends to Bradford fans by making it number one in the biggest Premier League upsets podcast.