Stead settles dire contest
By Mark Buckingham
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Jonathan Stead scored a late winner for Blackburn Rovers to ensure Manchester United's insipid climax to the Premiership season continued at Ewood Park.
Both teams had contributed to a contender for worst game of the campaign before Stead popped up with an 85th minute winner for the hosts, who had at least sporadically moved forward with intent.
Sir Alex Ferguson left Ruud van Nistelrooy, Roy Keane, Louis Saha and Cristiano Ronaldo back in Manchester and, with such attacking talent absent, the visitors rarely threatened during the first period.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who was leading the line for United, had his team's only real shot of the opening period when he dragged an early attempt wide of the target.
Both teams looked sluggish and lacklustre with an end of season feel to the contest as former Red Devil, Andy Cole, witnessed his curling shot from the edge of the box deflect wide.
Garry Flitcroft then sliced a volley wide while Cole managed to score past Tim Howard midway through the first half but his deft finish was ruled out for offside.
Cole later turned provider for the willing running of Jonathan Stead but his clever, curling shot arced wide of Howard's upright.
The best chance of the half fell to a Blackburn defender as Mikael Silvestre failed to clear a Tugay corner but Markus Babbel stabbed over from close range under pressure from the Frenchman.
The second half, if possible, was worse with the ineffective Kleberson glancing Phil Neville's cross wide of the far post.
The first meaningful shot of the lifeless fixture arrived midway through the second half as Tugay's angled volley produced a fine save from United States international Howard.
Turkey midfielder Tugay then tried his luck from just outside the box but his left-footed effort flew into the chest of Howard.
United belatedly had an attempt on target with around 15 minutes remaining when Ryan Giggs turned Gary Neville's cross goalwards but it was straight at Brad Friedel, who gathered the ball at the second time of asking.
Blackburn nicked the goal their marginally greater commitment to attacking football merited five minutes from time when substitute Paul Gallagher slipped a neat pass into Stead, who curled his shot past Howard from a tight angle.
Diego Forlan ambitiously attempted to equalise with an overhead kick which was off target while Howard firmly pushed away Gallagher's shot at the near post.
Forlan somehow headed over the crossbar from two yards out in injury time although the Uruguayan international's blushes were spared slightly by the raising of the linesman's flag as Rovers easily claimed the three points to secure their Premiership future.