Manchester - Grant Hanley's 80th-minute goal
handed Blackburn Rovers a stunning 3-2 victory over Manchester United at
Old Trafford on the last day of 2011 to ensure Sir Alex Ferguson's 70th
birthday was one to forget.
Having revealed earlier in the day
that he expects to retire in three years, Ferguson then saw Ayegbeni
Yakubu hand the struggling visitors a two-goal lead before Dimitar
Berbatov responded with two goals of his own to bring United level.
However, with Blackburn under increasing pressure, a rare corner brought them a surprising, although deserved, winner.
beat United goalkeeper David de Gea to Morten Gamst Pedersen's kick
and, with the home defence slow to respond, the central defender reacted
quickly and beat Rafael to the rebound to head in a memorable winning
goal, just the second of his career.
United, who thus missed the
opportunity to leap above Manchester City into first place, had been
stunned by the opening goal, after 15 minutes during which they had
enjoyed all the possession but failed to create an opening of note.
they were found vulnerable as Blackburn launched their first attack of
the afternoon, via a long free-kick punted forward by their goalkeeper,
Berbatov, pressed into defensive set-piece duties,
found himself engaged in a tussle with Rovers defender Chris Samba and
clearly tugged on his shirt as the pair fell to ground.
Mike Dean had no hesitation in awarding the penalty, from which Yakubu
calmly put Blackburn in front with a confident finish into the bottom
Yakubu's second goal, five minutes into the second half, was a much more impressive individual effort.
a throw-in, the Rovers target man eased past Rafael, enjoyed a
fortunate bounce off Michael Carrick's attempted tackle and then easily
beat Phil Jones before unleashing a fierce shot into the United goal.
appeared that Ferguson was paying the price for some surprising team
selections -- midfielder Carrick partnering former Rovers defender Jones
in the centre of defence, and right-back Rafael playing alongside Park
Ji-Sung in an unfamiliar central midfield pairing.
unsurprisingly, United struggled to test the opposition goalkeeper,
behind a packed and determined Blackburn defence, with that first half
In one promising spell of pressure, started when Samba
headed a Danny Welbeck shot behind, Berbatov flicked on a Nani corner
only for Jones to see his goalbound shot hit team-mate Javier Hernandez,
who then shot just wide from the edge of the area.
It took until the 52nd minute, seconds after going 2-0 down, for United to finally find the goal they desperately needed.
from kick-off following Yakubu's second goal, Rafael drove forward and
launched a move that ended with the young Brazilian crossing for
Berbatov to score with a close-range diving header.
Old Trafford crowd was animated and Ferguson's half-time decision to
bring on Anderson to bolster his midfield was paying dividends.
had to save athletically with his legs to repel Evra's deflected shot
and, just after the hour, Berbatov was on the mark again to draw United
A poor clearance from Pedersen played his team into
pressure and Rafael, with a neat forward header to Antonio Valencia,
The United winger sped to the by-line and picked
out Berbatov with an accurate cross that allowed the Bulgarian to sweep
in the ball from 10 yards.
United seemed poised to go on and claim the win but Hanley was to have the last word.