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Barclays Premier League

Old Trafford (ATT 75,146) 31st December 2011 - Kick off 12:45 Ref: M Dean

Man Utd Manchester United vs Blackburn Rovers Blackburn

Man Utd 2

D Berbatov (52, 62)

ft

Blackburn 3

Yakubu (pen 16, 51)
G Hanley (80)

Rovers ruin Fergie's birthday

Blackburn stun Manchester United with shock Old Trafford victory

Last Updated: 31/12/11 3:37pm

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Blackburn ruined Sir Alex Ferguson's 70th birthday celebrations as Grant Hanley's late winner and Yakubu's brace saw Manchester United suffer a shock 3-2 Old Trafford defeat.

Man of the match: Yakubu. Scored twice and was always a threat to the makeshift United defence with his powerful performance. Goal of the match: Dimitar Berbatov's second was a sweet first-time finish from Antonio Valencia's surging run and neat pull-back. Moment of the match: Grant Hanley's winning goal 10 minutes from time after he out jumped David de Gea before nodding home set the seal on a stunning afternoon. Save of the match: United substitute William Keane inadvertently blocked team-mate Phil Jones' effort on the line in the last minute of added time. Song of the match: 'Happy Birthday' rang around Old Trafford before kick-off to celebrate Sir Alex Ferguson's 70th birthday. After that, you could hear a pin drop for long periods. Talking points: Will this be a turning point in the career of Blackburn manager Steve Kean? How damaging will this defeat be to Manchester United's title ambitions?

A lacklustre display from a disjointed Red Devils side, with Wayne Rooney not even in the matchday squad, was the last thing the Red Devils expected as they missed the chance to overhaul Manchester City at the Premier League summit.

Rovers scored with their very first chance in the 16th minute as Yakubu sent David de Gea the wrong way from the spot after Dimitar Berbatov was penalised for pulling Chris Samba's shirt.

The powerful striker then made it 2-0 early in the second period as he escaped the attentions of Michael Carrick and Phil Jones to drill a powerful low shot under the United goalkeeper, only for Dimitar Berbatov to reply straight from the kick-off.

And when the Bulgaria striker restored in the 62nd minute parity with a smart finish from Antonio Valencia's pull-back, it looked as though there would only be one winner.

But De Gea suffered a nightmare moment 10 minutes from time, being beaten to a routine corner by Hanley, with the 20-year-old defender following up to nod into the net for the first goal of his career as the United defence stood stunned.

The final whistle was greeted with boos from the home support, who had joined in a rendition of 'Happy Birthday' for their manager prior to the kick-off, while Rovers celebrated their stunning success which will ease the pressure on beleaguered boss Steve Kean, who saw his side climb off the foot of the table.

United, injury-hit to the extent of having to name Rafael and Park Ji-sung as central midfield partners, were not up to the task.

The fluency that had carried them to eight wins from nine league games since their only defeat, that 6-1 massacre by Manchester City in October, was so obviously missing.

Frustrating

Nani was an obvious attacking outlet but had one of his frustrating days and neither Berbatov, Javier Hernandez nor Danny Welbeck could plot a path through the massed ranks of Blackburn's defence.

Twenty-four hours earlier, Ferguson had confirmed an intention to hand Berbatov an extra year's contract.

He must have felt like snatching it away, when the Bulgarian followed up his Boxing Day hat-trick against Wigan by hauling Samba over in the box.

At a club as unstable as Blackburn, one of the few certainties is that from the spot, Yakubu does not miss and the Nigerian promptly sent De Gea the wrong way.

United's response was strange in that, without playing well, they started to create opportunities.

Nani was off target with a couple of efforts then the Portugal winger was denied by Rovers' stand-in keeper Mark Bunn, as was Hernandez.

At one point, Hernandez also got in the way of a goalbound effort from Phil Jones, who had recovered from illness to face his former club for the first time since his £17million move to Old Trafford.

Pilloried by his own fans immediately before Christmas, Rovers boss Kean had now seen his side take first-half leads at Liverpool and United in a staggering six-day spell.

With no Rooney to assist his team, Ferguson turned to Anderson at the break, a move that triggered a number of positional changes, the most significant of which saw Valencia shifted into an advanced position.

Strength

But, before United had a chance to see whether the tactical switches would work, they fell further behind.

Yakubu had too much strength for makeshift central defender Carrick as he turned on the edge of the area, then nipped past Jones before drilling his shot through De Gea's legs.

Disastrously for Blackburn, they conceded themselves within 20 seconds of the restart as United advanced, the ball eventually finding its way to Rafael whose bouncing cross-shot was nodded home by Berbatov.

So often have Ferguson's teams recovered from such unpromising situations down the years, Kean must have felt sick. His side started to get overwhelmed by the tide of red attacks, with Valencia to the fore.

It was the South American's burst of pace and subsequent cut-back that provided Berbatov with the opportunity to side-foot United level.

Minutes later, Bunn almost unbelievably prevented Hanley from turning Berbatov's cross into his own net. He did not know much about it though, as the ball flew over off his outstretched foot.

The weight of attacks on the Blackburn goal was immense. Yet United's commitment was so great they forgot to defend, and once again the questions were raised over De Gea, who came to collect Morten Gamst Pedersen's corner.

Instead, Hanley won the first header, then found the bottom corner with his second.

United's resolve was sapped and their hopes of snatching the point that would take them top of the table disappeared when Bunn and home debutant Will Keane got in the way of Jones' injury-time effort.

Manchester UnitedTeam StatisticsBlackburn Rovers
2Goals3
01st Half Goals1
5Shots on Target3
13Shots off Target5
9Blocked Shots3
17Corners3
7Fouls10
0Offsides0
2Yellow Cards2
0Red Cards0
90Passing Success80.3
32Tackles33
78.1Tackles Success66.7
62.9Possession37.1
71.6Territorial Advantage28.4
490Total Passes310
71Total Crosses6
160Lost Balls163
53Recoveries49
60.21st Half Poss.39.8
62.42nd Half Poss.37.6

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