In 1998-99, Manchester United put together what many considered to be the greatest single season in the history of English soccer. First, they secured the Premier League title on the final day with a 2-1 comeback win against Tottenham. A week later, they took down the Premier League's greatest-ever goal-scorer, Alan Shearer, and Newcastle in the FA Cup final, winning 2-0. And then, finally and famously, they won the Champions League final against Bayern Munich, 2-1, with two goals in injury time.
Manchester United became the first English side to win the treble -- and they did it by averaging fewer points in the Premier League than Aston Villa are averaging this season under Unai Emery.
That's right. Through 13 games this year, Villa are averaging 2.15 points per match. Treble-winning Man United averaged 2.08. In fact, six other Premier League title-winners averaged fewer points per match than Villa's current rate. No team that's won points at or above Villa's current rate has ever finished below third place, and no team that's broken the two-points-per-game threshold has finished outside of the top four.
With the Saudi takeover of Newcastle, the Big Six comprising the league's top teams became the Big Seven -- and the door to the top four was supposed to be locked shut. Since Leicester City won the league in 2016 -- another team that averaged fewer points per game than this season's Villa -- no non-Big-Seven team has qualified for the Champions League. Thirteen games into this season, Villa, who haven't finished higher than seventh in over a decade, are way ahead of the pace.
How did Aston Villa do it, and is it a strategy other teams can copy? Also, how likely are Villa to keep it up?