Ronaldo rocket lifts United as Rovers finally breach defence

Manchester United 2 Blackburn Rovers 1

The man standing at the edge of the pitch last evening, peering hard at his wristwatch and staring in disbelief at the board which presaged four minutes of additional time, didn’t have the demeanour of an untouchable. Eight points clear of the rest of the Premier League Sir Alex Ferguson’s side might be but there was some succour for the rest as they got there, and a clearly discernible chink in the armour ahead of Manchester United’s journey to Milan in the Champions’ League with another defensive injury.

The sight of Jonny Evans limping from the field with an ankle injury contributed to what Ferguson described as a “bit of a nightmare” where central defenders for Tuesday’s encounter with Internazionale are concerned, and the whole afternoon was much the same, characterised by old controversies about Cristiano Ronaldo’s petulance and alleged refereeing bias at Old Trafford, which had Ferguson and Sam Allardyce remonstrating on the touchline before the day was done.

The match-winner Ronaldo might have been, courtesy of a gracefully and powerfully dispatched second-half free-kick, but he should have been booked and might have been dismissed for a petulant kick at David Dunn, with Howard Webb in close attendance. He was booked for diving in the box when Blackburn’s Gaël Givet had not seriously impeded him, but it was Webb’s decision not to grant Rovers a penalty after Rafael da Silva appeared to place a hand on Morten Gamst Pedersen’s shoulder as he raced into the box in search of a second equaliser, which agitated Allardyce.

“It has to be pretty blatant here at Old Trafford to get a penalty, we all know that,” Allardyce said. “The surrounding area has a massive intimidation on everyone, officials included.”

Ferguson disagreed, needless to say, and neither was he satisfied when Evans’s powerful first-half header, which sent a Nani corner into the net, was dubiously disallowed for an infringement on Ryan Nelsen by Ronaldo. The issue was clouded because the corner should not have been allowed in the first place. “Sometimes the referee gives a free-kick when he has a doubt about a corner kick,” Ferguson said. “There was absolutely no doubt in my mind – it was a goal.”

Quibbles like that do not befit untouchables, though United started like just such a side, with Wayne Rooney’s second goal in the 53 minutes he has played since returning from his five games out with a hamstring injury just part of a fine individual contribution spanning the length and breadth of the pitch. Nani span a cross in from the right, Nelsen tried to guide it back to Paul Robinson but Rooney sneaked in to strike on 23 minutes.

But for a side which had gone 1,334 minutes without conceding in a Premier League game, it was inconceivable that so many United players could have been at fault for the goal which, nine minutes later, blew the club’s attempts to equal the European club record for most league games without conceding.

Nani dithered over a ball five yards inside United’s half, allowing Andre Ooijer to seize it, slalom past Patrice Evra and slide in a ball for Roque Santa Cruz. Rio Ferdinand let him past and impeded Tomas Kuszczak, who had raced out at the wrong angle to find himself in no-man’s land. Santa Cruz slid in his second goal against Manchester United in as many games and doubts about Kuszczak’s reliability persist. At least Edwin van der Sar’s personal pursuit of 15 successive clean sheets remains intact, since he was rested for this game.

Later, Nelsen was allowed a shot in the United box which slammed against the post and Kuszczak was lucky to fall on top of the shot which El-Hadji Diouf fired in on the rebound. Ronaldo’s finish was more convincing. A flawed win, but a win nevertheless, and as Ferguson concluded: “If you don’t play your very best and get a result like that it can go towards a title.”

Attendance: 75,000

Referee: Howard Webb

Man of the match: Dunn

Match rating: 6/10

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue