The latest in our series of Premier League rewinds leads us to the 2002/03 campaign, a season which saw Manchester United come back from an eight-point deficit to overhaul defending champions Arsenal and seal an eighth Premier League title.
Elsewhere the season saw the emergence of a teenage Wayne Rooney in stunning style, whilst Chelsea won a final day winner-take-all clash with Liverpool to secure Champions League qualification and change the course of the club’s history forever.
We’re continuing our look back at the greatest goalscorers of past Premier League seasons, here are the five leading scorers from the 2002/03 campaign:
Michael Owen – Liverpool (19 goals)
After finishing as runners-up the previous season hopes were high that Liverpool could finally land an elusive league title under the guidance of Gerard Houllier, but a questionable summer transfer window that saw the likes of El Hadji-Diouf and Salif Diao arrive at Anfield set the club’s progress back.
The Reds slumped to a disappointing fifth-placed finish despite another prolific season from talisman Owen, the England international scoring 19 league goals – the joint highest haul of his career – for the second successive campaign.
Owen’s haul included a hat-trick at Manchester City and a four-goal haul in a 6-0 demolition of West Brom at the Hawthorns, the latter the biggest victory of the season throughout the entire Premier League.
The forward finished the campaign with 28 goals in all competitions, including the second as Liverpool beat Manchester United 2-0 to win the League Cup in Cardiff.
Mark Viduka – Leeds (20 goals)
The 2002/03 season saw the beginning of the demise of Leeds United, the club forced into selling several of their key personnel as the club began to feel the consequences of their financial mismanagement.
Having finished the previous season in fifth, the Yorkshire side narrowly avoided relegation following an end of season surge with their fortunes largely down to the impressive performances of Australian international Viduka.
Viduka finished the season with 20 league goals – the best haul of his career in English football – as Leeds moved clear of the relegation places, scoring a hat-trick in a 6-1 thrashing of Charlton at the Valley and a late winner to defeat Arsenal at Highbury, a result which all but ensured Leeds’ safety.
— Premier League (@premierleague) April 5, 2017
James Beattie – Southampton (23 goals)
It’s fair to say Southampton got the better end of the deal that saw Kevin Davies head to Blackburn in the late nineties, receiving £7m and a make-weight that would establish himself as a cult hero on the South Coast.
That makeweight was James Beattie, who enjoyed the best goalscoring season of his career during a memorable 2002/03 season, scoring 24 goals in all competitions to fire Southampton to an eighth-placed finish and the final of the FA Cup.
Beattie’s haul included a brace in victory over defending champions Arsenal and a hat-trick against Fulham at St Mary’s, the powerful forward finishing as the leading English scorer in the division.
He earned his first international recognition for his performances, making his debut in a friendly defeat to Australia in February that also saw a first England appearance for Wayne Rooney.
Thierry Henry – Arsenal (24 goals)
Arsenal‘s defence of the Premier League title may have ended in disappointment, but it was not for the want of trying from Thierry Henry who enjoyed a sensational individual campaign for the north London side.
The French forward was named as the winner of the PFA Player’s Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year awards after scoring 24 goals and providing a further 20 assists, becoming the first – and so far only – player in history to register 20+ goals and assists in a single league season.
Henry’s list of goals included a stunning solo effort in the north London derby against Tottenham, a run from inside his own half that was recognised by being named as Goal of the Season.
He finished the season with 32 goals in all competitions as Arsenal won the FA Cup, whilst his 20 assists remains the highest total ever recorded in a single Premier League campaign.
🇫🇷 Thierry Henry
Henry became the first player to score and assist 20+ goals in a PL season
He also set the record for most assists in a PL season
— Premier League Statman ⚽️ (@EPLStatman) August 3, 2019
Ruud van Nistelrooy – Manchester United (25 goals)
Manchester United reclaimed the Premier League title in fine style under the guidance of Sir Alex Ferguson, backed by a phenomenal goalscoring season from Netherlands international Ruud van Nistelrooy.
The Dutchman scored 44 goals in all competitions – a record in the Premier League era – finishing as the leading scorer in the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup and being named as the Premier League Player of the Season.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 6, 2020
Van Nistelrooy’s goalscoring exploits saw hat-tricks scored against Newcastle, Fulham and Charlton, with his treble against the Cottagers at Old Trafford including one of the Premier League’s great individual goals.
The forward helped United recover from an indifferent start to finish the season with an 18-game unbeaten run to overhaul leaders Arsenal, scoring in each of the final eight fixtures of the season to finish just a goal ahead of the aforementioned Henry and win the Premier League’s Golden Boot.