Date:Saturday October 4 2008
This was a performance worthy of English and European Champions: we beat bogey team Blackburn 2-0 at their own backyard and should have scored many more.
Wayne Rooney was the surprise inclusion in the United line-up as he was thought to be ruled out with an ankle problem. But we could have predicted he would play now I come to think of it: Fergie said he had been happy to allow him to join the England squad next week. He probably known that Rooney would play at Ewood Park.
We mainly used a 4-4-2 this season but Fergie returned to the flexible 4-2-3-1 with Rooney on the right, Giggs orchestrating things in the middle and Ronaldo running at them on the left. Fletcher and Anderson were responsible for winning the midfield battle and they did just that, although in the first 15 minutes wasn't ours.
United could have drawn first blood on 6 minutes but Giggs' low cross just evaded the desperately lunging Vidic when the slightest touch would have turned the ball in. Regardless of this, Blackburn held the upper hand in the first 15 minutes and only a sharp save from Edwin van der Sar denied Rovers the lead after a well-worked chance.
However, United seized control and began dominating the clash after this. Berbatov looked the part in the second half at Aalborg and now he was at his sublime best. The attack was revolving around him and his wonderful passes made a real difference.
It was the Bulgarian who released Darren Fletcher in the box on 24 minutes. The Scot had only Brown to beat but dragged his shot just wide of the far post. Agonising miss.
Berbatov was the key figure again when United finally took the lead. We were much the better team by this point and dominated Blackburn totally but the breakthrough came from an unexpected source. Berbatov broke clear on the right then cut the ball back for Giggs who unleashed a ferocius shot from the left which was tipped onto the bar and out of play by Brown.
Rooney drifted the ball in after the resulting corner and Brown headed home at the far post as Vidic collided with the other Brown, the goalkeeper. Blackburn players protested furiously and Paul Ince has blasted Bennett but while Bolton players were rightly enraged last week, this time there was little reason for complaint. The protection of goalkeepers inside their own area is gone and Vidic did little else but jumped for a ball. He was pushed into Brown by a defender so he's certainly not culpable for any harm Brown might have suffered.
Blackburn were in pieces after the goal but we did not add to our tally until the break. And they could have equalised immediately after the restart but for another save by Edwin van der Sar. However, this was their last meaningful chance as United simply took the game to Rovers again.
A mention must go to Giggs who was influential and considering how poorly he played at the same venue last season, this is a most pleasant surprise. Rooney's performance was equally pleasant but no surprise given his recent display: the striker was buzzing around everywhere, clearly relishing the space he had as Berbatov tied down defenders - yet still always had time to deliver killer passes.
And talking about killers: the second goal sealed the game, totally and absolutely. Brown released Ronaldo on the right who beat Olsson with a brilliant first touch then teed up Rooney in the box and the Englishman's fierce shot found the upper corner of the net.
Berbatov would have deserved a goal as well but he failed to round Brown after latching onto a terrible backpass. Shame. Rooney himself could have doubled his tally after another fantastic Berbatov pass but lifted the ball over the keeper and the bar as well. He was kicked by Brown in the process yet no penalty was given - Ince conveniently forgot about it in his post-match rant.
Ronaldo had a fairly quiet game but could have ended up with two assists had Tevez, brought on for Giggs with half an hour to go, been a tad more fortunate. The Argentinian was teed up by the Portuguese and his first-time effort rebounded off the post. Unlucky, really.
But while it would have put the crown on our performance, our superiority was unquestionable. As I said, this was a performance of champions - about time, too.
Date:Saturday October 4 2008
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