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22/12/02 Man Utd (H)


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We came into this game on the back of some indifferent form, with 3 wins, 1 draw and 1 defeat in our last 5 games albeit that two of those victories were against 1st Division Rotherham United and 2nd Division Wigan Athletic. The pre-match hype in the media had been all about Keane’s possible return and of course the re-united Yorke and Cole facing their old teammates, it was the latter that was to have the last laugh however. Rovers – United games always have something special about them, but with ex United players such as Keith Gillespie, John Curtis and obviously Yorke and Cole available for selection, alongside ex-City Garry Flitcroft, all that added to Roy Keane’s return this game was guaranteed to be full of added spice.

Rovers made three changes from the side that beat Wigan (to ironically meet United in the Worthington Cup Semi-Finals) Out went Stig-Inge Bjornebye, Keith Gillespie & the suspended David Thompson, replaced by Nils-Eric Johansson, David Dunn & Damien Duff respectively. United were without Juan Sebastian Veron & Beckham, Keane and Blanc were all substitutes.

The game itself started with United looking a side full of confidence, as they took immediate control of the game, as Rovers struggled to get to grips with the quality of passing and movement. This culminated with 3 excellent chances for United, which were all spurned as Van Nistlerooy failed to control from a Phil Neville pass, he and Diego Forlan then combined to spectacularly miss a golden chance and Van Nistlerooy once again came into the firing line as he was caught between the Rovers net and an Olé Gunnar Solksjær effort.

Rovers had a decent chance of their own sandwiched in between those United efforts as Andrew Cole fired straight at Barthez from a tight angle. Rovers rode the storm however and a mixture of skill and good fortune meant David Dunn could fire a rasping shot at the United goal from the edge of the box, which Barthez tipped over. Dunn then became increasingly prominent as the end of the half came closer and he won a free kick on the edge of the box following a trip from Scholes. Duff took an in swinging free kick which ‘Tiny’ Taylor met at the far post but could only head into the path of Scholes who’s poor clearing header fell to Flitcroft who fired past Barthez into the corner of the net to give Rovers a one-nil advantage at the break. Gillespie however replaced Dunn just before the close with what looked like a reoccurrence of his hamstring injury.


Half-Time came and went and Rovers came out in the second half, and began it as the team full of confidence and it was United struggling to cope with Rovers’ passing and commitment. Sir Alex Ferguson became visibly more agitated as Rovers looked by far the better side, and after Duff had sent a ball across the face of the goal, which somehow managed to evade both Cole and Yorke, he sent on Roy Keane, to the delight of the travelling support.

Rovers continued to frustrate United by maintaining possession brilliantly, and began to use the ball in a way, which they seemed unable to do in the first 30mins of the match. United began to pile on more pressure though but were unable to cause too many problems to Rovers, with only one notable chance as Van Nistlerooy raced clear of the Rovers’ rearguard, but Friedel stood tall and the Dutch Striker fired high and wide.

Fergie then threw on Beckham despite United’s pressure Rovers had the better of the chances, Duff raced clear and beat Neville has he had all the second half but his shot was unable to test Barthez. Blanc was then sent on as United panicked but Rovers had the only other chance, possibly the best of the game but Yorke was denied a personally special goal as his shot flew into row 40+ of the Blackburn End. United were unable to muster anything further and Rovers claimed a famous victory.

FRIEDEL (7):                              Had a relatively quiet afternoon despite United’s pressure.                  

NEILL (8):                                  Coped with the threat of both Giggs and Solksjær as they continually                                                         swapped flanks.  

JOHANSSON (8):                       Overcame a shaky opening 15minutes to play a steady but  important                                                      role.

MOTM SHORT (10):                   Alongside Taylor limited United to very few chances even when the                                                         pressure was immense.

MOTM TAYLOR (10):                  Did nothing to dispel the theory that he will play for England, in front                                                        of the watching nation.

DUNN (7):                                   Had little impact until towards the end of the first half, but was                                                                  replaced due to his niggling injury.

DUFF (9):                                    Did not receive much of the ball first half but tore Gary Neville to                                                              shreds in the second.

FLITCROFT (9):                           Was magnificent throughout and scored the winner, what more can                                                         you ask?

TUGAY (9):                                  Continued his recent run of good form with a brilliant display,                                                                     however Souness must now realise it is no coincidence that both                                                               Tugay & Dunny play far better alongside Flitcroft and NOT together.

COLE (9):                                     Worked tirelessly throughout, and looked top class, deserved a goal.

YORKE (10):                                 Was another who ran himself into the ground and looked class, he                                                            too deserved a goal which he should/would have had, had he not                                                             been full of the festive mood and presented a Fan in the back rows of                                                       the Blackburn End with the match ball.


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