COME ON IN, the water’s fine.
Blackburn Rovers 0 – 2 Manchester United
19.55 – It’s been a good weekend for Alex Ferguson, not just becasue City dropped points but also because he had his squad enjoying a warm weather training camp… in Scotland.
Back at the grindstone he explained to Sky’s Andy Burton why he is playing 4-5-1 tonight.
“I’m expecting a very hard game when you play a team near the bottom of the league you know they’re going to fight.”
“Hopefully I picked the right team.” He later added.
“I just felt with this game we should play with three centre midfield players. They’ll put a lot of free kicks into our box.”
The presence of Jones as the third man in that midfield, will be the man deployed as an extra defender against his old club.
The engine room is in stark contrast to that which lined up in the Old Trafford defeat: Park and Rafael. A combination which Gary Neville tonight described as “the worst United midfield I’ve ever seen.”
Funnily enough, Jones and Michael Carrick did play together that day; in central defence.
20.05 – Kick off and Rovers hoof in an early tester.
United quickly counter through Rooney on halfway and Valencia whips in a dangerous cross cleared with a diving header from Hanley.
Both sides are up for this, it’s gonna be a good ‘un.
20.11 – Chance for Chicharito. Super diagonal ball from Rooney finds the Mexican outside the six yard box.
Hanley had lost the striker as the ball was flighted in, but did just enough to convince Hernandez to hit the shot first time and wide.
The Mexican looks to have kicked the defender in the process and and limps away.
20.12 – United are defending the end which houses their large following support.
They’re singing something about Patrick Vieira, I can’t quite make it out, but doubt very much that it is complimentary.
20.21 – Rovers are still struggling to get out of their own half, but all United’s attack is coming down the right.
With Wayne Rooner deployed on the left wing, there is little width on that side so it’s down to Valencia to stretch the defence and get crosses in.
As I type, Yakubu has laid a long ball off to Hoilett, he outpaces Carrick had shoots from 30 yards.
Well struck, well saved by DeGea.
20.31 – I know what you’re thinking: How would award winning journalist Colin Udoh sum up those Hernandez chances?
20.38 – As United send in a corner and fashion a chance for that expert finisher, Jonny Evans, Martin Tyler is ‘treating’ viewers to his notion that “If Blackburn win all their remaining games then they would set a new record for points gathered*, bypassing Mourinho’s Chelsea.”
He does have an eye for a stat that man, even one’s which have not yet happened (and won’t).
*We presume the statistic is based over a period of 10 games or so.
20.42 – Meanwhile, back in the real world, United are still overworking Antonio Valencia’s right boot. Phil Jones, this time connects with the cross but it flies wide off his forehead.
A few frustrations beginning to creep into the home side. Silly free kicks conceded here and there.
There are seven minutes to go until half time, but my money is on a goalless first half.
United still probe, with Scholes refusing to take long range shots, instead spraying wide to Valencia.
20.46 – After MG Pederson belted a free-kick into the heart of the wall. United go up the other end and Carrick’s cross is blocked by Scott Dann.
Carrick has the cheek to claim handball and a penalty. He must think his luck is still in after last Monday.
20.50 – Opportunities at both ends. Rooney elects to thread the needle to Scholes when a shot seemed on and Rovers counter attack four-on-four.
Ferdinand clears for a corner but from that set-piece Marcus Ollson unleashes a rocket from his left boot. Tipped over by DeGea.
Hanley headed on target from the follow-up corner.
Two quality saves from the Spaniard. The half time whistle has gone and United are relieved.
They’ll have to get out of second gear to win this one.
21.05 – Stephen Carney ain’t overly impressed by what he’s seen. You can see his considered view (“yawn”) in the comment section.
The game is lacking intensity as United look like a side expecting to win the league, Rovers expect to stay up.
Doubtless a pair of Scottish managers have reminded their players of how big a prize is exactly at stake with a win tonight.
United’s five-man midfield have ensured United are dominating possession and territory. But playing direct and on the break Rovers have come just as close to scoring.
The second half is here, let’s hope for better.
21.13 – Rovers have started really strongly, but once again the threat comes from Antonio Valencia.
His dipping cross was destined to find Hernandez in the six-yard-box. Scott Dann gets the top of his head to the ball for a crucial intervention.
United keep up the pressure and Rooney has a curling effort from 28 yards or so. Wide.
You sense that Fergie’s half time tactical appraisal was: “Shooooot!” Or words to that effect.
21.18 – Scholes is fouled 25 yards from goal. 25 yards out Wayne Rooney took the shot on palmed away by Robinson at the near post.
One for the cameras as they say, much like DeGea’s save from Hoilett in the first half.
The away supporters are making all the noise in Ewood, United lay siege to that end.
Even Rafael sends a shot in and from the resulting corner Chichartio misses contact when trying another backways header.
21.21 – Blackburn still on the attack and Scholes is penalised for a foul on Yakubu.
Unusually, it looks to be a clean challenge. The ginger veteran is furious.
Pederson drives a low shot underneath the wall. DeGea saves, spills and Ferdinand clears.
GOAL: Disallowed. The whistle goes as Nzoni cuts a cross from the by-line it’s out, but Ewood park chooses not to hear Pederson cracks a volley into the bottom corner.
No goals, but plenty to watch in this second half.
Meanwhile there are subs afoot:
Danny Welbeck is on for Javier Hernandez and Ryan Giggs replaces the returning Phil Jones.
21.28 – Little over 20 minutes left in this one and Giggs’ extra quality has given United some added balance, not to mention impetus.
His crosses have found Evans – tight angle at back post, headed back – and Carrick – glancing header, wide – in quick succession.
21.33 – OUCH! After receiving yet another pass from Scholes, Valencia cut inside and toed a powerful shot right into the face of Pederson.
He’ll be dazed for a minute or two from that one.
21.45 – The man who has probably seen most of the ball tonight Antonio Valencia has given the league leaders an 81st minute lead with a thunderous strike from an acute angle.
The winger drove at Martin Ollson and as soon as he created a foot of space he unleashed the shot.
The ball powered across Robinson, in front of the entrenched defenders and into the corner.
21.54 – The Full time whistle blows at the ground United last year’s title.
If they retain it, they will look back on this game as proof of their credentials.
22.00 – Ferguson’s side were controlled and measured in the first half, but for 80 minutes could not break down Blackburn Rovers and the home side, rejuvenated from the rabble which looked odd-on to be relegated, had plenty of opportunities to win it themselves.
A goal-saving tackle from Ferdinand, two brilliant reflex stops from DeGea and a (rightly) disallowed goal from Pederson.
This was a game that could have went either way, but United held their nerve and kept pushing until they found two brilliant goals from Valencia and Young.
Mancini yesterday said the title race was ‘finished‘ if their rivals went eight points clear on Sunday and they will get a chance to do just that before City take on Arsenal.
22.06 – Sky’s Andy Burton is talking to Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia is largely ignored as apparently his ‘English isn’t very good’
There didn’t seem much wrong with it when Burton asked whether his 81st minute howitzer was a shot or a cross:
“Eh, 50-50″ was the Ecuadorian’s reply.
And here is that goal:
YouTube credit: ɯıssɐ oɥuıpɐɾ
22.07 – We hope Miguel Delaney had money on this:
22.28 – “Oh, it was a long night wasn’t it.” Alex Ferguson siad to Sky, “We just had to persevere and got our rewards – we weren’t making too many clear-cut chances.”
On Valencia’s stunning game-winning goal the title chasing manager said:
“Coming so late in the game (the goal) is important, that’s the history of our club.”
“With a shot like that it doesn’t matter whether it was a cross or a shot, it was great power.”
Ferguson also had praise for his ‘keeper who endured a lot of criticism this season, saying David DeGea “kept us in the the game.”
The switch from 4-5-1 to 4-4-2 was a turning point according to Ferguson:
“It (a packed midfield) gave us a stability, but it doesn’t give us the threat we need. I thought Ryan Giggs coming on made a big impact and Ashley Young too had a big, big impact.”
Meanwhile, Steve Kean had to face a return to the relegation zone, he summed up his sides performance:
“For 80 minutes we played very well.” Said Kean, adding, “Man U have had eight hosts on target we’ve had six.”
“We probably got a little bit too narrow in midfield and allowed them space out wide.”
“We gave Martin Ollson to much to do, he wasn’t protected enough and when Wayne Rooney came in it gave us even more problems.”
“If we keep playing to that standard then we should avoid relegation.”
22.32 – Well, that’s just about it from me, thanks for joining in the fun.
It was a real classic end-of-season squeaky bum match. Incident at both ends, two sides at either end of the table going full throttle in search of three points.
In the end, it was United greater quality in attack and defence which shone through.
Quality which looks almost certain to deliver their 20th league title.