It's Blackburn - But Without Bentley And Friedel
Trips to Blackburn Rovers are always difficult, nervy affairs. The last time United managed to win there by more than a single goal was in 2003, in the League Cup - seems like a different lifetime.
However, tomorrow afternoon it could be a little bit easier than usual as there is no David Bentley and Brad Friedel in Rovers' ranks.
Why does it make such a difference? It's relatively simple: both players have a rich history against Manchester United.
To start with Bentley: he is still the only man who has ever scored a Premiership hat-trick against United. On that day in 2006 Blackburn beat us 4-3 and the young winger was a thorn in our defence, totally unsettling Rio Ferdinand and co. It's a relief we do not have to face him now, that he's left for Spurs.
Still, he's the less important part of the duo. The departure of Friedel is what should really give us the edge.
I lost count of the number of times we had to endure terrible afternoons at Ewood courtesy of Brad Friedel. The American is a fine goalkeeper against any team but when playing against United he seems to become superhuman.
We do not have to go far back in time for the last Friedel heroics against us: it was in April this year when we went to Ewood seeking three points and a little bit of breathing space on the top. Santa Cruz and Rob Styles both did their best to derail our title challenge but their contribution was, once again, dwarfed by Friedel: he made several outstanding saves, most notably from Carlos Tevez who was clean through on goal and John O'Shea who tested him from close range yet he kept the ball out with an unbelievable effort.
His successor would be Paul Robinson, someone who never had particularly fine games against United, but the England keeper is injured at the moment so 26-year-old Jason Brown will be given the task of keeping out our formidable forward line.
It will be only his second Premier League appearance and I must say I am usually wary of this deputies. They usually fall into category: they are either visibly nervous and give an edge to the opposition or make world-class saves throughout to leave us shaking our heads in disbelief.
Remember Jurgen Macho? The Austrian keeper deputised for Tomas Sorensen in the Sunderland goal when the Black Cats visited Old Trafford on January 1, 2003. He was an unknown goalkeeper - and he was simply outstanding in that game and it took us 80 minutes to break him down...
Hopefully, Blackburn will cease to be a bogey team with Friedel out of the way. Time will tell.
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