Manchester United cruised to a comfortable win over a Blackburn Rovers side that set new standards in lack of ambition. A brace of outstanding finishes from Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov were enough to see off United’s Lancashire rivals on a day when the home side should have matched Chelsea’s five or Arsenal’s six against limited opposition.
United began the game missing both regular centre-backs. Rio Ferdinand’s absence is now a more regular occurence that club or player can now accept. Meanwhile, his partner Nemanja Vidic was missing with a similar calf problem.
But United’s stand-in pair of Jonny Evans and Wes Brown strolled through the match, barely breaking sweat. Indeed, Blackburn made no meaningful effort to attack Edwin van der Sar’s goal until the 87th minute, by which time the game was lost. The great Dutchman is edging towards retirement but will rarely have been so unemployed as against Sam Allardyce’s Rovers in a 20-year career.
United took close to an hour to win the game and Sir Alex Ferguson need only look at his side’s wasteful finishing. United created a flurry of chances in the opening period, with Dimitar Berbatov guilty of profligacy in equal measure to sublime skill as abuse rained down from the visiting supporters.
But it was the Bulgarian – certainly no waste of money – who finally broke Rovers’ resolve, expertly turning on Patrice Evra’s wayward shot to volley into Paul Robinson’s bottom right corner. It was a fine goal and ample reward for Berbatov’s outstanding recent form.
United, who needed a response to last week’s heartbreaking defeat at Anfield, then wrapped up the game with just a few minutes to spare as Rooney expertly guided in Anderson’s left-wing cross.
In between Premier League debutant Gabriel Obertan, excellent in midweek against Barnsley, missed a brace of chances to cap his Old Trafford bow with a goal. The Frenchman, angry at himself post-match, has done more in 100 minutes of football than Nani in two and a half seasons in Manchester.
The match-winner Berbatov ended the game relieved to have scored in another excellent personal performance.
“In the first half I had a couple of chances to score, and you need to be patient and when another chance comes along you have to score it, and I was very glad to score my chance,” said Berbatov, who will sit on the bench at Chelsea in a week’s time if Ferguson reverts to five in midfield.
“Then Wayne Rooney scored another and that was it finished for Blackburn. We were relieved because they are a difficult team to play against. Every time when you score a goal you are relieved because you feel you’ve done something special and that was the case for me.
“One-nil is a good result, as long as you finish it that way,” the Bulgarian added.
“If it’s three-nil or four-nil, it doesn’t matter. As long as we keep winning I think everybody will be happy.”
But Ferguson knows that United must improve if his team is to take anything away from Stamford Bridge in a week’s time. His side’s stuttering form pales into comparison with Chelsea’s. If defeat at Anfield was the worst result of the season to date then Stamford Bridge marks the campaign’s most significant match to date.
“The players worked very hard as Blackburn set out their stall,” Ferguson said.
“You always get a bit concerned when you haven’t scored. But we don’t panic. We have that experience. We can win games in the 93rd minute.
“You need that patience, though, and we improved our penetration in the second half. That is a strong virtue of this club.
“The good thing about this club is we’re experienced enough to know how difficult it is to win this league. It’s not going to be any different this year.
“We know mistakes are going to happen, we know you lose games you don’t expect to lose but you go for the consistency and hope to carry on with that consistency. If we get to January and we’re still in there then we will have a great chance.”
Ferguson, who will be without both Vidic and Ferdinand at Stamford Bridge, praised their deputies. Brown and Evans will need another outstanding performance next weekend.
“A lot was made about Ferdinand and Vidic being out today,” said Ferguson.
“But when you have Wes Brown and Jonny Evans as back-up, you’re not doing bad. If you take Ferdinand and Vidic out, then there are not many better pairings in the Premier League than Evans and Brown.”