The 2013-14 Premier League season is officially in the books, and what a season it has been. The title race went down to the very wire, while the last of the relegated teams suffered heartbreak at the very same moment.
Norwich City will join Cardiff City and Fulham in the 2014-15 Football League, and all three clubs should have their eyes set on a swift return to the highest level of English club football, the Premier League.
Liverpool kept things close until the very end, a testament to the great work Brendan Rodgers has done with one of the youngest title-contending squads we have ever seen, but ultimately, the pure quality of Manchester City was just too much overcome.
They say money can't buy happiness, but in this day and age, it can buy championships. Via the Daily Mail's Nick Harris, the world's most expensive team in all of sports outlasted Liverpool and Chelsea in the final straight, clinching the Premier League title with a 2-0 over West Ham United on Sunday.
Let's take a look at what we'll remember from the 2013-14 Premier League season. First of all, here's a look at the final standings:
|13||West Ham United||38||11||7||20||40||51||-11||40|
|17||West Bromwich Albion||38||7||15||16||43||59||-16||36|
The resurgence of Liverpool and fall of Manchester United
It's only fitting that these bitter rivals experienced defining years in their history simultaneously.
While the defending league champions unsuccessfully tried to replace a legend in Sir Alex Ferguson with the maligned David Moyes, Liverpool bettered back-to-back seventh-place finishes with a silver medal and a ticket to next year's UEFA Champions League.
Led by the lethal attacking duo of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge (more on the both of them later), the Reds used a brand of vibrant, attacking football to overcome a shaky defensive unit on their way to the top spot in the standings with just two matches left to be played.
Inexperience cost them in the end, but Rodgers and his squad still made a big statement with their dominant season. Gone are the bad times of the past half-decade—Liverpool are back where they belong.
The same can't be said of the Red Devils, who finished well outside the top six and will not be playing in Europe for the first time in 25 years, per EPL Stuff:
25 - Manchester United have failed to qualify for a European competition for the first time in 25 years.— EPL Stuff (@EPLStuff) May 11, 2014
Moyes was let go near the end of the season, and Louis van Gaal is widely expected to step in as new manager of the club, and once again, United will have to spend an entire summer rebuilding a club trying to emerge from underneath the legacy of Ferguson.
Whether Van Gaal is up to the task remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: These rivals went completely in opposite directions in 2014.
The year of the youngster
The Premier League has always been an excellent breeding ground for young, talented players, but the 2013-14 season was absolutely absurd. Youngsters all over the league played meaningful roles for their clubs and often helped decide not only important matches, but also the outcome of the very title race itself.
How dominant was this year's crop of young players? Adnan Januzaj and Aaron Ramsey would have been among the favourites to win the PFA Young Player of the Year award in any other year. In 2014, they weren't even nominated.
Januzaj was one of United's only bright spots, while Ramsey played a huge role in Arsenal's midfield when healthy. Luke Shaw and Daniel Sturridge enjoyed true breakout seasons that may have catapulted them both into England's starting XI for next month's World Cup.
Eden Hazard and Sturridge were so great and so decisive they even made the shortlist for the Player of the Season award, and Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku were both pivotal in Everton booking their ticket into Europe.
Sure, veterans such as Steven Gerrard and John Terry enjoyed excellent campaigns, but there's no looking past the enormous impact the next generation of stars had on the past season.
Jose Mourinho held trophyless
It is very important to note that this particular takeaway is a testament to the greatness of Mourinho, as much as fans of rival teams will disagree. The fact social media are enjoying Jose's season without silverware this much tells you all you need to know about how the Portuguese manager is perceived.
This is one of the most dominant coaches football has seen in the past decade, and the fact he has failed to win any trophies since the Spanish Super Cup at the start of the 2012-13 season truly is shocking.
Has the 2013-14 season been a disappointment for Chelsea? That depends. A semi-final berth in the UEFA Champions League and a top-three finish in the Premier League would sound like a good season for most managers, particularly ones in their first season at the club.
But not Mourinho. No, we expect more of him, and when Chelsea go a season without winning a trophy with the Special One at the helm, we somehow think that's reason for ridicule and mockery.
If it was any manager other than Mourinho in charge of Chelsea they would have already been sacked.— Supporting Arsenal (@SupportingAFC) May 11, 2014
It's not, and the reaction it has caused among fans and pundits alike only emphasises what 2013-14 taught us about the Portuguese manager—that he isn't just the most disliked manager in the world, but also the most feared.
Redemption for Luis Suarez
Look, there are always going to be fans of particular clubs (and Noel Gallagher, as shared by Transfer Related) who dislike the Uruguayan striker and who will claim he is dirty until the day he retires.
Noel Gallagher: "It's great to see Suarez crying. He's a blatant cheat and it's a disgrace he's won Player of the Year." (via @EPLBible)— Transfer Related (@TransferRelated) May 6, 2014
And I'm sure Suarez cares deeply about their feelings following the season in which his unique set of skills finally outshone all of the baggage that had come with him in the past.
Following his suspension to start the season, Suarez kept his head down, avoided major trouble on the pitch and let his play do the talking. The results? A boatload of Player of the Year awards, a second-place finish for his club and the Golden Boot, courtesy of 31 fantastic goals, as shared by Viktor Fagerstrom:
Suarez was everywhere in 2013-14, leading Liverpool's resurgence and keeping opponents guessing with timely goals. His chase of the Premier League record, which he ended up missing by a hair, took centre stage as journalists slowly forgot to mention all of the things that gave the forward a bad rap in the past.
His team may not have won the Premier League title, but Suarez was arguably the biggest winner of the 2013-14 Premier League season. And despite what some people may be suggesting, it would be a shame if the new, improved Suarez were plying his trade in another league after just one season.