Home » EPL, Featured, Latest » Match Report: Blackburn 0 Man United 2

This was not a performance of champions; but it was the mark of one. Manchester United earned the victory that extended their lead at the top of the Premier League table to five points.

With seven games left it is emphatically their title to lose and although they were indebted to goalkeeper David de Gea, the opening goal, a glorious strike by Antonio Valencia, was worthy of claiming any contest.

A 20th title beckons as the delirious ranks of visiting supporters were quick to remind everyone soon after Valencia’s bolt struck the net.

Ashley Young added a second – only marginally less dramatic – and Blackburn Rovers were sent into the bottom three.

This has been a burial ground of United’s dreams in the past, not always the happiest of venues, most recently in the campaign before last when a title challenge died with a goalless draw.

The title was taken last season here but, interestingly, it was with another draw. Victories have been eked out.

But such is the confidence at present, following a daunting sequence of nine victories and a draw that has engulfed Manchester City’s advantage, that Sir Alex Ferguson shuffled the pack with three changes of personnel and a change of formation.

“Hopefully I’ve picked the right team,” he conceded pre-match and it was certainly one bristling with intent with Phil Jones, the £16.5m signing from Blackburn, recalled and given licence to roam in midfield between an attacking triumvirate and it was a fine raking long ball from Wayne Rooney that fashioned the first opportunity.

Pushed out to the left-wing Rooney’s flighted pass confused Grant Hanley and Javier Hernandez was given a clear sight of goal only to wastefully screw his shot wide.

Soon after and Hernandez went far closer – latching onto a low cross from Antonio Valencia to fire a first-time shot that cannoned off a post, then struck goalkeeper Paul Robinson on the back. Robinson gratefully, and smartly, clutched it before it crossed the goal-line.

United continued to press, going for an early kill with Michael Carrick curling over from distance and Blackburn floundering to gain a foothold.

Suddenly there was a breakout, from the dangerous Junior Hoilett and as he ran towards goal he shot, fiercely, and from distance, with David De Gea spectacularly punching away his effort. It served as a reminder that

Blackburn, also, had much at stake having also claimed that famous victory at Old Trafford earlier in the campaign. Despite their plight they are also a dangerous, goalscoring side not least through Yakubu and he was crowded out as threatened to force his way through.

From a corner, Patrice Evra found Jonny Evans, who had headed the ball to him, only for the central defender to side-foot weakly at Robinson before United stretched the play with Paul Scholes spraying the ball wide after fine build-up by Evra.

This time Valencia crossed deep, finding Jones – but he misdirected his header. Another chance spurned.

In truth, by now, United had lost a little of their sting.

The advantage of Rooney’s tweaked role was that it involved him more in the play; the disadvantage was that involved him too much with the play as he dropped deeper away from goal. It meant United lost a bit of their cutting edge.

Rooney was too close to Scholes and too far from Hernandez although, just before half-time, Carrick appealed long and hard after his shot was blocked by Scott Dann claiming the defender had handled.

Just as that interval approached, Rooney lost possession, once more, as he tried to thread another intricate pass and Blackburn countered.

First, from a throw-in, United failed to clear and De Gea superbly clawed away Marcus Olsson’s powerful snapshot from the area’s edge and then, from that corner, the goalkeeper pushed over Hanley’s header. United had been warned.

It meant that despite their apparent dominance, United were greatly indebted to De Gea for not being behind in the encounter. The Jones experiment had not been a success and yet Ferguson delayed any changes although he did, importantly, switch Rooney and Hernandez which meant the

England striker was far more central now and he had the first pot at goal for United after the resumption – striking over from distance. Before that and Dann had glanced a header wide.

The pace needed to quicken and eventually it did although Hanley broke up United’s play with an arm into Scholes’ face. It gave Rooney the chance of another strike at goal but Robinson comfortably pushed away his free kick.

The pressure grew with Rafael da Silva, again from distance, forcing a more taxing save from Robinson and then Hernandez losing the ball as he attempted to head home from close-range.

Not that Blackburn didn’t threaten with Carrick delivering a wayward pass straight to Yakubu who blazed over and then the striker being given another opportunity only to slice wide.

Blackburn went even closer. Scholes was harshly penalised and from the free kick Morten Gamst Pedersen drove in a low shot. De Gea stopped it, but spilled the ball which was scrambled away.

Blackburn retrieved it – and Pedersen spectacularly thumped the cross into the net from the area’s edge only for the effort to be ruled out with the assistant referee judging the ball had gone out of play before it was centred by Steven Nzonzi.

It appeared marginal but it was the correct decision. United pushed on although it took a crisp intervention by Rio Ferdinand to deny Yakubu.

It needed something special to break this deadlock and Valencia achieved it, with a sharply angled right-foot shot, after he ran in from the touchline, that was simply too powerful for Robinson.

A second, almost as arresting, soon followed with Young spinning on the area’s edge and driving just inside the post to end any doubt.

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