In the modern era, winning the Champions League and Premier League in the same season is seen as being the pinnacle of an achievement for an English football club. It hasn’t always been the case that the European competition was seen as so important, however. In the 1970s, 1980s and earlier it was the FA Cup that was considered to be the second-most prestigious trophy that an English club could lift alongside the top-flight title.
Indeed, it was considered so influential that if anyone had referred to a side ‘doing the Double’ then it would be immediately clear what the person was talking about. First achieved by Preston North End in 1889, the Double isn’t seen as quite the same achievement in the modern era because of the extent to which the FA Cup has lost its lustre. Other Doubles and even Trebles have been achieved, so we’ll have a look at all of them.
What Is The Double?
Traditionally, the Double is considered to be the winning of the top-flight title and the primary cup competition. In England, this currently means the Premier League and the FA Cup, though it was the First Division title before 1992. It is not to be confused with the idea of ‘doing the double’ over an opponent by beating them both home and away during the course of a football league season, instead referring only to winning trophies.
The FA Cup is England’s most prestigious trophy but it is not the only one. It is not unheard of, for example, for a team to win the Premier League and the League Cup. This would technically be a double but would not be the Double. Equally it’s possible to win both the League Cup and FA Cup but not to win the top-flight title, or to win the Premier League and the Champions League. These are all impressive achievements but none of them are the traditional double.
English Teams That Have Won The Official Double
The reality is that winning the Double is difficult, which is why it is seen as such an impressive achievement. As well as being better than all other teams across a thirty-eight game Premier League season, or more at different times in the top-flight competition’s history, a side also has to play at least six matches to win the FA Cup. In the days when rounds would be replayed in the event of a draw, this could be even more matches.
To give an indication of just how demanding it is, Arsenal went the entire 2003-2004 campaign without losing a Premier League game. They became only the second side after the 1888-1889 Preston North End team to achieve such a feat, proving that they were one of the best teams on the planet at the time. Yet they were knocked out of the FA Cup by Manchester United at the semi-final stage, with the Double proving one step too far even for the Invincibles.
Here’s a look at the teams that have managed to win the Double over the years, including the season that they did so and the manager in charge at the time:
English League Title & FA Cup Double Winners
|2022-2023||Manchester City||Pep Guardiola|
|2018-2019||Manchester City||Pep Guardiola|
|1998-1999||Manchester United||Alex Ferguson|
|1995-1996||Manchester United||Alex Ferguson|
|1993-1994||Manchester United||Alex Ferguson|
|1960-1961||Tottenham Hotspur||Bill Nicholson|
|1896-1897||Aston Villa||George Ramsay|
|1888-1889||Preston North End||William Sudell|
There are a few noteworthy points from that table that prove just how difficult it is to win the Double. The first is that Arsenal are the only team to have done so in three different decades, managing it once before the Premier League and twice since the current format of the English top-flight was created. The second is that Manchester United were the most dominant team of the 1990s yet only managed to win the double three times during that era.
Equally, Liverpool were easily the best team in England during the 1980s, winning the title seven times between 1980 and 1990. Yet the Reds were only able to win the Double once and have failed to win it since at the time of writing. It’s also interesting that both Chelsea and Manchester City changed the landscape in the Premier League when they were taken over by billionaire owners, outspending every other club by a distance, but only have one Double each.
Now that we know the stats on teams that have won the official English Double, let’s have a look at teams that have won what one might refer to as ‘unofficial’ doubles. This is when a side has won two trophies but not the combination of the top-flight title and the FA Cup. It could be that they’ve won the FA Cup and the League Cup and no other trophy, or the title and the League Cup but not the FA Cup, for example.
The sheer number of combinations makes it quite a complex thing to consider, especially when you bear in mind that the likes of the Fairs Cup was considered to be relatively important during the 1960s. The existence of the UEFA Cup, which later became the Europa League, also muddies the waters as it adds another cup competition to the mix. Even so, here’s a look at teams that have won a different double at some point over the years:
Alternative English Double Winners
|2021-2022||Liverpool||FA Cup & League Cup|
|2020-2021||Manchester City||Premier League & League Cup|
|2017-2018||Manchester City||Premier League & League Cup|
|2016-2017||Manchester United||League Cup & Europa League|
|2014-2015||Chelsea||Premier League & League Cup|
|2013-2014||Manchester City||Premier League & League Cup|
|2011-2012||Chelsea||FA Cup & Champions League|
|2008-2009||Manchester United||Premier League & League Cup|
|2006-2007||Chelsea||FA Cup & League Cup|
|2004-2005||Chelsea||Premier League & League Cup|
|1997-1998||Chelsea||League Cup & Cup Winners’ Cup|
|1992-1993||Arsenal||FA Cup & League Cup|
|1984-1985||Everton||First Division & Cup Winners’ Cup|
|1982-1983||Liverpool||First Division & League Cup|
|1981-1982||Liverpool||First Division & League Cup|
|1978-1979||Nottingham Forest||FA Cup & European Cup|
|1976-1977||Liverpool||First Division & European Cup|
|1975-1976||Liverpool||First Division & UEFA Cup|
|1967-1968||Leeds United||League Cup & Fairs Cup|
The question of doubles becomes slightly more confusing by the fact that trebles are also possible. This is when a side wins a combination of three trophies, but that combination might also include a double. In 1998-1999, for example, Manchester United won the Premier League and the FA Cup as well as the Champions League, meaning that the achieved both a domestic double and a treble. Manchester City completed this same treble in 2022-2023. We’ve tried not to repeat ourselves on that front where possible.
To date, only one team has won the domestic treble of the top-flight title, the FA Cup and the League Cup and this was achieved by Manchester City in the 2018-2019 season. There have been other combinations of trebles won over the years, but the fact that only team in the history of English football has been able to win the domestic one shows just what an impressive achievement it was by Pep Guardiola’s side.
Including that domestic treble for the Cityzens, here’s a look at all trebles that have been won over the years:
English Treble Winning Teams
|2022-2023||Manchester City||Premier League, Champions League & FA Cup|
|2018-2019||Manchester City||Premier League, FA Cup & League Cup|
|2000-2001||Liverpool||FA Cup, League Cup & UEFA Cup|
|1998-1999||Manchester United||Premier League, Champions League & FA Cup|
|1983-1984||Liverpool||First Division, European Cup & League Cup|
Will Doubles & Trebles Become Less Frequent?
Football is a constantly evolving sport. Decisions are made for the good of the players, the teams and the governing bodies, which means that some trophies are created, some are evolved and others are done away with altogether. It’s entirely possible, for example, that Manchester City will forever remain the only English side to win a domestic treble if a decision is taken to abandon the League Cup.
It’s difficult to predict the future of English football, but it’s certainly likely that clubs and players will want to see fewer games during a calendar year rather than more. As the evolution of international football continues thanks to the likes of the Nations League, finding a way to remove some of the burden of playing time from professional footballers will almost certainly grow.
As a result, fewer and fewer cup games will be played. This, in turn, will allow clubs to concentrate their efforts on the truly important competitions that remain. The simple truth is that the FA Cup has lost its importance to modern fans, largely thanks to the Football Association’s refusal to treat it as an important cup. By changing kick-off times, allowing multiple sponsors and hosting the semi-finals at Wembley it isn’t what it once was.
Should the League Cup be removed from the calendar, at least for Premier League teams, then it’s easy to see a world in which sides use the opportunity of fewer games in the season to begin to take the FA Cup more seriously again. If the Football Association also start to treat it with more seriousness, such as by completely abandoning the idea of replays, then that will further enhance its reputation in the modern era.
That being said, there’s still no certainty that we’ll see an increase in Doubles as a result. There’s no question that the FA Cup was taken seriously prior to the turn of the millennium and yet there were still only nine true Doubles during that period. Teams will always value the Premier League and Champions League above the FA Cup as long as the money involved in winning is higher for the other two.
It will be interesting to see if there’s much change to cup competitions moving forward and if the death knell of such tournaments will be sounded if there isn’t. From a betting point of view, placing a wager on a team to do the Double is seeming like more and more of a tough bet to land as teams favour other competitions more highly. Individual bets on a side winning a certain trophy perhaps represents better value in the short-term.