The Premier League’s final day produced an extraordinary afternoon of nail-biting tension and endlessly fluctuating fortunes and ended with Blackpool and Birmingham City relegated on Sunday.
Wolverhampton Wanderers, who were in and out of the drop zone all day, Wigan Athletic and Blackburn Rovers were left celebrating as they lived to fight another day.
Manchester City confirmed their automatic entry to the group stage of the Champions League by winning 2-0 at Bolton Wanderers to finish third, while Tottenham Hotspur are in the Europa League after they beat Birmingham 2-1 to finish fifth.
Manchester United’s title party briefly threatened to fall flat as they fell 2-1 behind to Blackpool, but they stormed back to win 4-2 and make it 18 victories and a draw from their 19 home league games and end their record 19th title-winning season on 80 points — the lowest winning total for 10 years.
Chelsea were second on 71 points after losing 1-0 to 10-man Everton, for whom Jermaine Beckford scored a superb goal after running the length of the pitch.
Two hours later, the club issued a statement on their Web site.
“Chelsea Football Club can confirm that Carlo Ancelotti parted company with the club today,” it said. “The owner and board would like to thank Carlo for his contribution and achievements since taking over as manager in July 2009, which included winning the Double for the first time in the club’s history. However, this season’s performances have fallen short of expectations and the club feels the time is right to make this change ahead of next season’s preparations.”
A year ago, Ancelotti signed off his first season in charge with an 8-0 thrashing of Wigan Athletic to clinch the title in style. Chelsea then added the FA Cup with a 1-0 victory over Portsmouth.
Manchester City, who won the FA Cup last week, also finished on 71 points and they can look forward to their first taste of Champions League soccer.
Arsenal drew 2-2 at Fulham to stay fourth on 68 points after a poor end to the season that brought only two wins from 11 matches.
Tottenham’s victory kept them safely in fifth on 62 points, four ahead of Liverpool, who lost 1-0 at Aston Villa.
However, all the drama was at the bottom where the closest relegation battle in years went right to the final whistle.
Blackpool have thrilled their fans and attracted legions of admirers for their daring approach and it looked to have paid off when goals from Charlie Adam and Gary Taylor-Fletcher had them 2-1 up with 33 minutes to go at Old Trafford, but awful defending, the other trademark of their first season in the top flight since 1971, was also on show as they gifted Anderson an equalizer and scored an own-goal, before Michael Owen put the final nail in their coffin.
“After taking the lead, we had started to believe: ‘We can do this,’” Blackpool boss Ian Holloway said. “You saw the way we played, the chances we created, we’ve got to take those, but United brought on Wayne Rooney, they’re used to winning and we lost out. That aside, we’ve been absolutely outstanding and it’s hard to take.”
It was also tough for Birmingham as they followed Norwich City’s 1985 “achievement” of being relegated after winning the League Cup.
Behind to a Roman Pavlyuchenko goal, Craig Gardner’s 78th-minute equalizer had looked enough to keep them up, but events elsewhere changed that and as they poured forward looking for the goal they needed the Russian grabbed his second in stoppage-time to confirm their relegation.