Top five most memorable opening-day games

With the new Premier League season starting this afternoon, Sports Mole looks back at five of the most memorable opening-day matches in years gone by.

The opening day of the new Premier League season is a red-letter one for football fans up and down the country.

Their new-look sides will take to the field in a competitive match for the first time since May, while ambitions and hopes will have healed or grown depending on the events of the prior campaign.

Today, 14 of the 20 teams will get their seasons underway as the 2014-15 campaign begins, but for some it will be more memorable than others.

Below, Sports Mole looks at some of the more remarkable results and incidents that the opening day has thrown up over the years.


1. Aston Villa 3-1 Manchester United (1995-96)

Manchester United had dominated the early years of the Premier League, winning the first two titles on offer, but in 1994-95 they found themselves pipped to the crown by Kenny Dalglish's Blackburn Rovers.

That prompted manager Alex Ferguson to make drastic changes to his squad, adopting a policy of 'out with the old and in with the new'. Established stars such as Paul Ince, Mark Hughes and Andrei Kanchelskis were all shipped out as the manager put his faith in youth.

With Eric Cantona also suspended, it was an unfamiliar side that began the 1995-96 campaign as 'Fergie's Fledglings' made their first bow. Gary Neville, Nicky Butt, David Beckham and Phil Neville were all involved as United slumped to a 3-1 defeat on the opening day.

It was certainly not a good start for the would-be champions, and the performance prompted pundit Alan Hansen to utter his immortal line that "you can't win anything with kids".




2. Southampton 3-4 Nottingham Forest (1995-96)

On the same day that United were blooding youngsters at Villa Park, another legend in the making was strutting his stuff at The Dell.

Matt Le Tissier remains one of the Premier League's finest ever players, and the midfielder got his 1995-96 campaign off to a flying start on an individual level by netting a hat-trick against Nottingham Forest, including two from the spot.

However, it wasn't enough for the Saints to pick up the points as Forest scored four times - including a couple of strikes Le Tissier himself would have been proud of - to edge the seven-goal thriller and make a winning start to their own season.

Le Tissier scored more than 200 goals for the club during 16 years of service, but he remains the only player in Premier League history to have scored a hat-trick and still ended up on the losing side.




3. Wimbledon 0-3 Manchester United (1996-97)

Having proved Hansen wrong by clinching the title in 1995-96, United began the following campaign with a trip to face Wimbledon at Selhurst Park.

There were certainly easier places to kick off their season, but United made short work of their opponents, cruising to a comfortable and commanding 3-0 victory to get their campaign off to a perfect start.

Indeed, the result may have been lost in the annals of routine wins but for a special moment from a 21-year-old Beckham, who emphatically announced himself on the scene with one of the greatest goals in Premier League history. The future England captain lobbed Wimbledon keeper Neil Sullivan from the halfway line to provide arguably the most memorable moment in his glittering career.

Cantona and Denis Irwin added the other two goals as United cruised to the win, but it was Beckham who stole the show.




4. Leicester City 0-5 Bolton Wanderers (2001-02)

A new season often begins with hopes and dreams for how your team will perform over the following nine months, but not even the most optimistic of Bolton Wanderers fans could have dreamt of as good a start as they managed in the 2001-02 season.

Having been promoted from the second tier courtesy of a playoff final win over Preston North End, the Trotters went into the campaign as big favourites to drop straight back out of the top flight.

However, they defied those predictions on the opening day by hammering Leicester City - who had taken part in the UEFA Cup the previous season - at Filbert Street.

The three points were wrapped up before half time as Sam Allardyce's side scored four first-half goals, while Per Frandsen added the icing on the cake in the 83rd minute.

Top-of-the-table Bolton went on to win their next two games, leading Allardyce to proclaim that they could go on to win the league, but in the end they only narrowly stayed up.



5. Chelsea 6-0 West Bromwich Albion (2010-11)

Bolton's victory may have been emphatic, but it is not the biggest ever opening day win in the Premier League. That honour lies with Chelsea, who signalled their intention to defend their title in 2010-11 with a 6-0 drubbing of West Bromwich Albion at Stamford Bridge.

The reigning champions got off to a perfect start when Florent Malouda fired them ahead in the sixth minute, and the French winger went on to double his personal tally to cap off the scoring in the 90th.

In between, Didier Drogba netted a hat-trick and Frank Lampard also got on the scoresheet as Carlo Ancelotti's side put the newly-promoted Baggies to the sword.

Despite such a fantastic start to the season, Chelsea failed to defend their title as Manchester United regained the league crown. Meanwhile, West Brom, who were then managed by former Chelsea player and future Chelsea Champions League-winning manager Roberto di Matteo, bounced back to finish 11th.

Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt, David Beckham, Phil Neville, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville pose for a team shot during a photoshoot for the documentary 'The Class of '92'
Read Next:
OTD: 'Class of 92' down Forest
>
You May Like
Recomended from Sports Mole



Tables
LIVE SCORES VIDEPRINTER
expand