It’s important to note that at this time, there were still restrictions on the amount of foreign players that could play for a team. Hot on United’s trail were Aston Villa and Norwich City, who both harboured dreams of championship glory. Already, all three had headed the table at some point, but it was Mike Walker’s impressive Norwich side who managed to open up the first clear lead, a feat made all the more remarkable considering that they had conceded more goals than scored.
The opening day provided bitter disappointment for two of the title favourites, as Manchester United succumbed to a Brian Deane goal at Bramall Lane for Sheffield United. A nice big fee may have helped to soften the blow, but Leeds only received 1.5 million pounds for their star man. He made the controversial decision to sanction the sale of star French striker, Eric Cantona to none other than bitter rivals Manchester United. You still had the same 22 teams and of course the same players. Just three years earlier, they had been an average Second Division side, now the Yorkshire side had to play with the added mantle of being England’s representative in the UEFA Champions League as well as being the champions.
As November dawned, Leeds’ chances of retaining their title were already all but over, as they faltered both domestically and in Europe. So the capture of the mercurial Frenchman was a huge moment for a club that had struggled to find the back of the net during the season so far.
After a couple of months, the race for the title had already come down to three clubs, firstly Manchester United, determined to end a championship barren streak going back 26 years. Truth be told, their remarkable triumph the previous season had come somewhat prematurely. Elsewhere, the bookies favourites Arsenal seemed to justify the betting forecasts by racing into a 2-0 lead, but then threw it all away losing 4-2 at home to Norwich City.
The departure of Cantona saw Leeds’ season disintegrate, with the team eventually limping into a sixth placed finish. The only differences that may have raised an eyelid were the fact the referees now wore green, instead of their traditional black, an extra substitute now took his place on the bench, bringing the number up to three, and finally the implementation of the back-pass rule now prohibited goalkeepers from picking the ball up when it was passed back to them by foot.. The previous season, had seen them come very close, but Howard Wilkinson’s Leeds team had pipped them at the post. During the previous summer, United had put in substantial bids for Alan Shearer (who ended at Blackburn Rovers) and David Hirst (his club, Sheffield Wednesday decided to reject the offer). Meanwhile, across the Pennines, United began to close the gap on Norwich, thanks largely to Cantona’s goals.
The English Premier League finally got off and underway on the 15th August 1992, and despite of all the hysteria, largely manufactured by Sky, there seemed to be very little difference from the old First Division. But what followed still leaves fans and pundits scratching their heads today. Boss, Howard Wilkinson needed to invoke some changes to try and revitalise the ailing champions. For Alex Ferguson, this was a huge boost to his ambitions to emulate fellow legendary Scottish manager, Sir Matt Busby- who had led United to their last triumph in 1967. So by and large, all of the teams were made up largely of home-grown talent. Deane’s goal was actually the first ever Premier League goal.
Leeds United, the reigning champions struggled early on