United leave it late at Rovers
Man Utd stretched their lead at the top to five points after late goals from Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young downed Blackburn 2-0.
Last Updated: 02/04/12 10:44pm
Manchester United stretched their lead at the top of the Premier League to five points after late goals from Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young downed Blackburn 2-0 at Ewood Park.
Relegation-threatened Rovers contained Sir Alex Ferguson's men for the majority of Monday night's clash but came undone in the dying minutes as the title-chasers proved too strong.
Valencia picked up a Rafael pass and curled home a stunning right-footed shot to break the deadlock, leaving Blackburn goalkeeper Paul Robinson with no chance.
He then played creator five minutes from time as he fed Ashley Young, who skilfully tucked a second just inside the post.
United's local rivals Manchester City now have a mountain to climb if they are to beat the Red Devils to the title, while at the other end of the table struggling Rovers have slipped into the relegation zone on goal difference.
Having celebrated winning title number 19 in the corresponding fixture last term, United were ready to party again, believing a 20th was on the way.
And for 20 minutes it seemed the United players were ready to sweep Blackburn away on the tidal wave of support.
Valencia was an ever-present threat on the right flank and, whilst Wayne Rooney was operating from a position both wider and deeper than his most threatening, Javier Hernandez's movement caused Blackburn further concern.
The Mexican had already come close once when he nipped in at the near post to meet another low Valencia cross.
From less than six yards, it seemed a certain goal.
But somehow, Hernandez's effort came back off the base of a post and before the rebound bounced in, Paul Robinson had turned round and grabbed it.
As United poured forward and Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick found plenty of space in front of the Rovers' back four, it seemed just a matter of time before the visitors opened their account.
Carrick curled a shot over and had a penalty claim turned down.
Against his former club, Phil Jones misdirected a header wide, as did Patrice Evra.
Blackburn took heart from this unexpected reprieve and, buoyed by a combination of their excellent record in this fixture and two wins from their last three games, advanced themselves.
It was after a particularly dire performance in the Old Trafford encounter between these sides on New Year's Eve that David De Gea was axed.
Such has been the dramatic improvement since then, though, that it was not much of a surprise when the Spain Under-21 star tipped a Junior Hoilett effort over.
Then, in a frantic final minute before the break, both Marcus Olsson and Grant Hanley - Blackburn's Old Trafford match-winner - were repelled.
It marked a change in attitude from the hosts, who continued to push forward with gusto when the teams re-emerged.
Scott Dann glanced a header wide, top scorer Yakubu wasted a couple of decent opportunities and Rio Ferdinand had to rescue De Gea who, after all that had gone before, blotted his copybook by spilling Morten Gamst Pedersen's thunderous effort.
After shock wins for Wigan and QPR against the Premier League's so-called giants over the past fortnight, Blackburn thought they had put themselves in line for another when Pedersen rasped home from 20 yards.
The home supporters were deflated, though, as it was ruled the ball had just crossed the line for a goal-kick before Steven Nzonzi pulled it back.
More heroics from Robinson to cut out a low Rooney cross in the middle of a crowd of bodies set Blackburn on their way again.
Had Ferdinand not managed to get to Yakubu in the nick of time, the Nigerian would surely have touched home Marcus Olsson's low cross at the near post.
United were starting to get desperate. But not for long.
Valencia has missed so much of this season through injury but there is a strong argument that he is the man of their campaign.
With time running out, it was the Ecuador wide-man who struck, drilling a shot past Robinson after darting into the box.Young added another before the end with a neat finish from the edge of the box which just rubbed it in.
|Blackburn Rovers||Team Statistics||Manchester United|
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|4||Shots on Target||5|
|5||Shots off Target||5|
|27.3||1st Half Poss.||72.7|
|25.9||2nd Half Poss.||74.1|