Talk before yesterday’s match centred around two things in the Blackburn fans camp.
Either keep the score down or just accept we were going to get whooped by Manchester United and move on.
How very, very wrong we all were. After a terrible year at Ewood Park Rovers finished off in the finest style possible with a display packed with pride, passion and fight that has been sorely missing throughout the current campaign.
And the weird thing is that the 3-2 win over the current champions was no fluke. Rovers fully merited the win as a combination of a sluggish United and a feisty away performance saw Blackburn avoid the dubious honour of being bottom at the turn of the New Year.
Even though the Red Devils were hampered by injuries they could have no excuses as Rovers themselves were without several key figures with the likes of Martin Olsson, Junior Hoilett, David Dunn, Ryan Nelsen, Scott Dann, Michel Salgado, Paul Robinson and Gael Givet all absent.
Which meant the selection options were very limited and it left Steve Kean with no choice but to field a side with the youngest average age of any Blackburn first XI in the Premier League era.
And against all the odds the back five of Mark Bunn, Jason Lowe, Grant Hanley, Chris Samba and 17 year old Adam Henley were an absolute revelation as they contained United and took the fight to them.
But despite the defensive heroics it again fell to one of the bargains of the summer to supply the goods up the other end of the pitch with Yakubu notching his 11th and 12th goals of the current campaign with a coolly dispatched penalty and a classy finish off a fortunate bobble putting Rovers two goals to the good in what probably amounted to the shock scoreline of the season.
But as we are now accustomed to at Rovers when a goal is scored and a lead is secured the problems start and it only took 21 seconds for Dimitar ‘Miserable Git’ Berbatov to strike with a close range header and then restore parity between the two sides with a great low finish past Mark Bunn in the Rovers goal.
And with twenty minutes left you would have thought the usual would happen… United would steam roller on and rovers would cave as has been the case with both sides recently. But low and behold for the first time in a while Rovers came out of the corner fighting and won the game with a powerful set piece on the 80 minute mark.
Morten Gamst Pedersen sent the ball over from the far side, Grant Hanley rose above an already flapping David De Gea and then met the ball with his head for a second time and the ball was bundled home.
Cue mass hysteria amongst the Rovers ranks as the rest of the game was seen out with bravery and a little bit of luck.
A terrible year had ended on the highest possible note and for a day or two at least we can forget the fact that we are near the bottom, with an under fire manager and the club has money problems and shoddy owners.
Because if you can’t enjoy this then you’ll struggle to enjoy anything!
Mark Bunn – 8
Second daunting away trip in the space of five days and a second excellent performance between the sticks.
If I was Paul Robinson I’d be worried…
Jason Lowe – 7
Given trouble at times with the pace of the United players but stuck to task admirably and never let the occasion phase him.
Chris Samba – 9
Commanding performance from one of the Premier League’s in form players.
Every time a ball went into the Rovers box in the air it was met with supreme dominance.
Grant Hanley – 9
The hesitations that ruined his early season performances have gone for now. Best game in a Rovers shirt.
Adam Henley – 8
He’s 17. I’ll repeat that again… He’s 17.
And he went Old Trafford, showed them no respect and played like that. Speechless.
Mauro Formica – 6
Worked hard as usual but far too lightweight on the ball and in the 50/50’s.
A few sloppy passes didn’t help but improved in the second half.
Morten Gamst Pedersen – 7
Another one who was guilty of a slow start and being a bit of passenger at times but he stood up to be counted with some lung busting running.
Guided the midfield well.
Steve N’Zonzi – 8
Can be infuriating when not on the ball as he really should be a stronger tackler for a man of his size but oozed confidence when in possession and never panicked.
Is probably Rovers best player for ball retention.
Radosav Petrovic – 6
Still unconvincing and still horrendously ponderous.
But his work rate did lift his display above mediocre.
Ruben Rochina – 8
Phenomenal effort for the hour he was on the pitch. Covered ground, made tackles, played as part of a team and gave the United right side problems with his skill and movement.
Much better and a little unlucky to be subbed.
Yakubu – 9
Two goals and some very clever/strong hold up play.
Was given an envious task of being isolated at times but when the chances he came he took them and that is what he is paid to do.
Penalty taken with ice cold veins and striker’s finish for the second goal.
12 goals in 13 Premier League games. I can’t hear many fat jokes now. Anyone? Thought not.
Josh Morris – 7
Surprised to see him come on but looked controlled and calm on the ball and held up his side of the bargain well.
David Goodwillie – 5
Didn’t do a great deal as his substitution was more of a time waster one but looked industrious.
Brief introduction to Premier League life. Will have been pleased to get a taste.
He got it right.
Didn’t have too much choice with who to pick but he sent Rovers out with a proper plan for once and they stuck to it for 94 minutes and it worked.
We’re very quick to jump all over him when he get’s it wrong but for once he nailed it with the players playing for him and getting the right result in the end.