Another week, another Lancashire derby, as the mighty Manchester United entertain one of only three other teams to win the Premiership, the once mighty Blackburn Rovers, now re-building under the fierce Welsh manager and former much-loved United striker, Mark Hughes.
United get things underway lined up in what looks like a cautious 4-5-1 of Edwin Van der Sar in goal, the current back four of John O’Shea, Rio Ferdinand, Mikael Silvestre and Kieron Richardson,and then a 5 man midfield of Cristiano Ronaldo, Darren Fletcher, Alan Smith, Paul Scholes captaining the team and Ji-sung Park with Ruud van Nistelrooy as lone striker.
Both Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs are left on the bench along with Tim Howard, Liam Miller and Phil Bardsley. Let’s hope they feel positive and actually play a slightly more positive though still cautious 4-3-3 with Ronaldo and Park getting forward to support the lone wolf!
It’s a pretty one-sided first half with United making all the running and Blackburn defending deeply and looking for the quick break forward. It’s a pretty open game with both sides making chances although they’re coming roughly two to one in United’s favour.
Suddenly, with just over half an hour gone, Blackburn win a fairly harmless looking free kick out on the United right. Blackburn’s Norwegian midfielder Morten Gamst Pedersen whips in what looks like a fast cross but somehow nobody connects with it and it goes straight in at the United far post and it’s GOOALLL to Blackburn Rovers 0-1.
After this shock, the sellout crowd is stunned but United keep pushing forward in search of an equalizer, alas to no avail and it’s half time with United losing at home.
The second half gets underway with Blackburn already looking happy to settle for the current score and just defend deeply but the Red Devils look determined to strike back.
After 10 minutes Sir Alex Ferguson underlines this by bringing on Wayne Rooney for the strangely preferred Darren Fletcher, Sir Alex’s token Scot, and United immediately look even more threatening.
Within another ten minutes this tactical substitution pays off bigtime for Manchester United. Kieron Richardson, looking very cool in the unfamiliar Left Back role, takes a throw in which reaches Rooney in the Blackburn penalty area and he shoots fiercely. Blackburn’s impressive American goalkeeper manages to parry the ball but it drops straight to Ruud van Nistelrooy who slots it into the corner of the away net and it’s GOOOOOAAALLLL to United 1-1.
Sir Alex immediately brings on Ryan Giggs for Park as United look for the crucial winner. Tragically, in the 82nd minute it all goes terribly wrong for United as the usually reliable Paul Scholes, captain for the day, is caught in possession of the ball on the edge of the United penalty area by Blackburn’s Michael Gray, who slips the ball through to Pedersen who slams the ball into the net and it’s GOOALL to Blackburn Rovers and United are losing 1-2. Can the season be over for Manchester United and the Old Trafford faithful after only six games?
The home team have four minutes of extra time to try and save the match – and possibly their season. It’s all United as the lads pour forwards trying to avert defeat but it’s all to no avail and the boys in red sink to their first home defeat of the season.