Barclays Premier League
Blackburn 0-2 Manchester United



Man United's Antonio Valencia shows his delight in putting his team in the lead with ten minutes remaining


By Adam Higgins 
Chief Football Editor from Ewood Park 


Manchester United extended their lead over Manchester City at the top of the Premier League to five points as two late strikes killed off the Rovers resistance to give them victory at Blackburn.

United struggled to make the breakthrough that would see them open up a potentially decisive gap over their rivals from across the city but demonstrated the quality and resolve in the defining weeks of the season with Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young on target in the final ten minutes giving them three vital points in their quest for a 20th Premier League title.

Sir Alex Ferguson made three changes to the side who beat Fulham 1-0 last Monday with Javier Hernandez, Paul Scholes and former Blackburn defender Phil Jones, playing in midfield, replacing Ryan Giggs, Danny Welbeck and Ashley Young who all dropped to the substitutes bench.

Rovers boss Steve Kean, meanwhile, only made one alteration to the team who lost to Bolton last weekend in an important relegation six pointer with Mauro Formica dropping to the bench and Bradley Orr coming in to replace him as Jason Lowe moved into midfield to accomodate the former QPR full-back with the Scot opting for a more defensive line-up.

United, who had won ten of the last eleven in the league since back-to-back defeats at the turn of the year against Blackburn and Newcastle, started with a lot of confidence- Hernandez coming close on a few occasions in the opening fifteen minutes. The striker looked dangerous on the shoulder of the last defender ably assisted by some fine early passing from Antonio Valencia, Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick. His first opportunity came when Rooney found him via some shaky defending from Grant Hanley, but the striker's effort was an early swipe that flew wide.

His next effort came mightily close to finding the back of the net, getting on the end of Valencia's cross at the front post that Paul Robinson did brilliantly to get a hand to. The ball bounced onto the post and back onto the keeper, but he managed to turn and clutch it before it crossed the line. Carrick then went on a rare stroll forward, but his effort from distance flew over Robinson's goal.



The loss for Blackburn is only the third they have suffered at home to Manchester United in the league in their past ten meetings at Ewood Park.


Fairly soon afterwards, young Spanish international stopper David De Gea was given his first task of the night in goal for United, making a leaping save to his left to stop Junior Hoilett's effort from twenty-five yards after he had managed to work some room in behind the Red Devils' midfielders.

Jonny Evans was the next player to put in an effort on goal, placing a low effort at goal after a corner, but Robinson dealt easily with a simple save to his left. Former Blackburn man Phil Jones could only head wide when unmarked minutes later following a great sweeping move involving Patrice Evra, Scholes and Valencia. United then had claims for a penalty turned down as a Carrick cross was charged down by Scott Dann. The ball hit the defender on the elbow, but he had it tucked in towards his body meaning referee Howard Webb was unable to award a spotkick.

De Gea then came to the rescue twice more before half-time for United. A long throw was not quite dealt with by the Spanish keeper, punching to the edge of the box, and as Evra failed to clear it, Marcus Olsson fired in a fierce half-volley that he tipped over very well. From the resulting corner, the young keeper did very well to reach a header from Grant Hanley as he tipped it over the top of the bar.

United came out after half-time on the front foot, putting in some dangerous crosses and Rooney hitting a venomous effort wide from distance. Ten minutes into the second-half, Rooney had another opportunity from distance, this time from a free-kick after Scholes was caught with an elbow in a tackle by Hanley- who scored the winning goal on New Years Eve when Blackburn shocked the footballing world with a 3-2 victory at Old Trafford when the two side's last met.



Valencia's assist is his 12th in 20 Premier League matches this season- he is behind only David Silva in the most assists chart despite playing ten games less than Spaniard.


Rooney, who netted the penalty on the same ground last May which clinched the title last season in a 1-1 draw, whipped in his effort but Robinson got across to palm it wide. Rafael then had a long-range shot well-saved, and the pressure from the visitors had Blackburn on the ropes. But Yakubu then had two efforts in a minute following some sloppy play from Carrick, but he wasn't punished as both shots flew miles off the target.

Morten Gamst Pedersen then tested De Gea from a free-kick as his wall proved ineffective, with the keeper just about stopping the ball as Rio Ferdinand came in to sweep up the danger. Pedersen then had the ball in the net with a great strike from the edge of the area, but the ball had already gone out of play as Steven Nzonzi took on Evans in the corner.

Boss Ferguson then looked to his substitutes with Giggs replacing Jones and Welbeck coming on for Chicharito in quick succession as United went for a more orthodox 4-4-2 formation in search of the first goal. United were starting to apply serious pressure as the game entered the final twenty minutes, but with just over ten to go, Rio Ferdinand made a fantastic tackle to prevent Yakubu from getting on the end of a cross and turning the ball past De Gea.

Although United finally got the goal that their telling pressure deserved through the man many claim to have been their best performer this season. Valencia, who has been missing for a couple of months recently through injury, received the ball wide on the right, took on two defender before slamming a fierce drive across the face of goal and into the far corner past Paul Robinson- who wouldn't have been happy with his part.

And in the 86th minute United made sure of the points, as substitute Young received the ball from Valencia with his back to goal on the edge of the area, before spinning and whipping a powerful effort past Robinson into the bottom corner, who had no chance as the curl on the ball took it from outside the post into the bottom corner.

The rest of the game was played out with Blackburn attempting to find a goal, but coming up against a solid defence as United held on to secure the three points that took them five clear at the top of the table with the chance to go eight points clear of their rivals this Sunday when they face QPR before City take on Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium later on the same day.


Adam Higgins
The Football Site- Chief Football Editor

"Same old Manchester United on view once again. They weren't playing particularly well but kept themselves in the game plugging away at Blackburn, rode their luck a couple of times with David De Gea showing his ability in keeping out Yakubu and Hoilett. Blackburn gave it a good go but United keep going to the end and that is what marks them down as potential champions again. They never give up, you cannot give them any sniff of a chance and two small opportunities have been punished. They just about deserved the victory, they needed it and they have got the three points. It wasn't a vintage performance by any stretch of the imagination although they have done enough. For Blackburn, after a couple of good results have now been beaten twice in a row and will need to get back on track next week otherwise they will down in the dumps again."



Monday 2nd April 2012

Barclays Premier League

Ewood Park


Blackburn Rovers 0-2 Manchester United                      KO 8pm              (HT 0-2)

                             Valencia 81
                             Young 86


Blackburn:  1 Robinson (C)- 6/10, 18 Orr- 6.5/10, 16 Dann- 6.5/10, 31 Hanley- 6.5/10, 3 Martin Olsson- 5.5/10, 23 Hoilett- 7/10, 15 N'Zonzi- 6.5/10, 35 Lowe- 6/10, 21 Marcus Olsson- 6.5/10, 12 Pedersen- 7/10, 22 Yakubu- 7/10.

Subs not used:  13 Bunn, 39 Henley, 8 Dunn, 10 Formica, 14 Petrovic, 9 Modeste, 20 Rochina

Booked:     Hanley (54)


Manchester United:  1 De Gea- 8.5/10, 21 Rafael- 7/10, 5 Ferdinand- 7.5/10, 6 Evans- 7.5/10, 3 Evra (C)- 7/10, 22 Scholes- 7.5/10 (Young 79- 3.5/10), 16 Carrick- 7/10, 4 Jones- 6/10 (Giggs 63- 4.5/10), 25 Valencia- 9/10, 14 Hernandez- 6.5/10 (Welbeck 61- 3/10), 10 Rooney- 6.5/10.

Subs not used:  40 Amos, 12 Smalling, 13 Park Ji-Sung, 42 Pogba 

Booked:     Valencia (39)


My Man of the Match:     Luis Antonio Valencia (Manchester United)- Rating 9/10

My Poorest Performer of the Match:     Martin Olsson (Blackburn Rovers)- Rating 5.5/10 



Referee: Howard Webb MBE (South Yorkshire)- 9.5/10
Attendance: 26,532 



Match Facts

Possession: Blackburn- 30%             Manchester United- 70%

Shots: Blackburn- 11                Manchester United- 14

Shots on target: Blackburn- 6                Manchester United- 6

Shots off target: Blackburn- 5                Manchester United- 8

Corners: Blackburn- 2                    Manchester United- 10

Fouls: Blackburn- 8                  Manchester United- 5

Offside: Blackburn- 1                  Manchester United- 1

Assists: Blackburn- None              Manchester United- 2 (Rafael, Valencia)



Blackburn Rovers manager Steve Kean

"We've come in frustrated knowing that we have played well for eighty minutes and carried out our game plan for so long. Such as the ability that Manchester United have, we knew that our discipline had to be good, our organisation perfect and keep a good shape throughout which I felt we did. Looking at the statistics, we have had a few shots and we have found David De Gea in good form this evening in goal. I felt the only thing we struggled to deal with was the threat of (Antonio) Valencia down the right hand side as we didn't given Martin Olsson enough protection in particular in the first half. We could on another night have scored with the Yakubu chance and although we didn't pose a real danger going forward to United, we still created one or two flashes of an opportunity which we could have made more of. If we put that amount of intensity and flow to our game which we did for 80 minutes here into the ninety minutes over the next seven matches then I am confident we will pick up a lot of points. It was a moment of brilliance from Valencia which has undone us- I actually think it is a cross-shot but then when they brought Ashley Young on he looked hungry to make an impact."

Click here for the full post-match interview with Rovers boss Steve Kean



Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

"We always expect a tough match when we come to Blackburn and tonight was no different. We've come here, not played as well as we can do but done enough to get a good result. Defending is the essence of the game and with long balls when we played them at Old Trafford, David (De Gea) had a little difficulty in dealing with them. Yakubu and Hoilett running off and long balls cause a threat to us of course but David made some excellent saves and had a fantastic game. With ten minutes to go and the score level, I wasn't confident that we were going to make the breakthrough although our club do this time and time again. We don't give up, we go to the final whistle and there is a determination about us. It was really important that we didn't panic, we kept going and Antonio (Valencia) scored a fabulous goal. People are asking whether he meant it or not- it doesn't matter, it was a fierce effort which made it difficult for the goalkeeper. His general play was outstanding and he was the best player on the pitch by far. Not only are we pulling the points back from City but the goal difference as well where we are only one behind them- that has been a fantastic turnaround. We are in a good position now."

Click here for the full post-match interview with Red Devils boss Alex Ferguson


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