Date:Thursday January 26 2006
MAN UTD: Van der Sar, Neville, Ferdinand, Brown,Evra (Silvestre 80), Rooney, Fletcher, Giggs (Smith 13),Richardson, Saha, van Nistelrooy (Vidic 86).
Subs Not Used: Howard, Rossi.
BLACKBURN: Friedel, Neill, Nelsen, Khizanishvili, Gray, Reid,Savage, Tugay (Peter 86), Pedersen, Kuqi (Emerton 76), Bentley.
Subs Not Used: Enckelman, Todd, Mokoena.
Manchester United set up a Carling Cup showdown with Wigan after beating Blackburn 2-1 at Old Trafford to secure a 3-2 aggregate victory.
United took the lead in the eighth minute when Ruud van Nistelrooy capitalised on a Michael Gray error to sweep the ball past Brad Friedel. But they sat back and invited Rovers on by playing a remarkably deep back-line, and the visitors took advantage.
Rovers pinched an equaliser on 32 minutes courtesy of Steven Reid, who lashed a shot under Edwin van der Sar after some sloppy United defending. Some could argue the goalkeeper made a meal of it and went down too slow, but he did get a hand to the ball but the power beat him.
Just before the break, Zurab Khizanishvili was adjudged to have handled in the box when he tussled with Ruud van Nistelrooy, but it did look a harsh decision. However Friedel brilliantly saved van Nistelrooy's penalty.
Friedel was the hero again in the 49th minute, superbly clawing away van Nistelrooy's header - but the American was helpless moments later as he was beaten by Saha's swerving volley. Rooney made the move with a smart run across the penalty area before planting the perfect ball onto Saha's toe. The ex-Fulham striker seemed to screw his shot, but it served perfectly inside the left post.
Freidel made further excellent saves to deny van Nistelrooy and Wayne Rooney but Blackburn offered little as an attacking threat, despite plenty of possession.
It was a match that bubbled right from the kick-off and finally boiled over when players from both sides sprinted down the tunnel to join in a bust-up which Robbie Savage appeared to spark by racing after Rio Ferdinand.
The fracas was the tip of the iceberg as Savage involved himself in everything ugly in the game. Razor Ruddock summed him up perfectly on Soccer AM when he said: 'Savage is a player I'd love to play against. He has a habit of causing trouble then doing a runner. There is only one way to play against someone like that.'
And Alan Smith happened to be one of those players who knew what Razor was talking about.
Ryan Giggs' replacement Alan Smith lunged into Savage with such ferocity he received a yellow card which means he is now suspended for the Barclays Premiership meeting between these two sides at Ewood Park in seven days' time. And I'm sure Savage is overjoyed.
Old Trafford witnessed the unseemly sight of players racing into the tunnel at top speed to witness what appeared to be a major bust-up between Savage and Ferdinand.
The fiery Blackburn man had already angered the hosts with his reaction to a couple of tough challenges - and as the teams left the field, Ferdinand seemed to offer Savage his own view before jogging off.
For a brief moment, there was no reaction; then the Welshman began the pursuit, accelerating all the way - followed by most of his team-mates, opponents and respective coaching staff.
United officials later emerged to insist nothing more sinister had occurred than a robust shoving match. That may be true, but it still looked pretty bad.
Date:Thursday January 26 2006
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