Valencia helps United extend lead to five points

 

Late goals from Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young sent Manchester United five points clear at the top of the Premier League this evening with victory over Blackburn at Ewood Park.

Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini had expressed the hope that Rovers would continue their sequence of just two defeats in 12 home league games against their north-west neighbours to breathe new life into the title race.

If he was watching, the Italian could have no complaints about Blackburn's performance.

But after a succession of excellent saves from David de Gea, United finally made their own pressure tell, with Valencia breaking the deadlock 10 minutes from time before Young added another.

The result also saw Rovers drop back into the bottom three on goal difference.

That is of little interest in Manchester, though.

City's failure to beat Sunderland on Saturday had created a fevered atmosphere amongst the 7,000-strong visiting contingent.

Having celebrated winning title number 19 in the corresponding fixture last term, they were ready to party again, believing a 20th was on the way.

And for 20 minutes it seemed the United players were ready to sweep Blackburn away on the tidal wave of support.

Valencia was an ever-present threat on the right flank and, whilst Wayne Rooney was operating from a position both wider and deeper than his most threatening, Javier Hernandez's movement caused Blackburn further concern.

The Mexican had already come close once when he nipped in at the near post to meet another low Valencia cross.

From less than six yards, it seemed a certain goal.

But somehow, Hernandez's effort came back off the base of a post and before the rebound bounced in, Paul Robinson had turned round and grabbed it.

As United poured forward and Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick found plenty of space in front of the Rovers' back four, it seemed just a matter of time before the visitors opened their account.

Carrick curled a shot over and had a penalty claim turned down.

Against his former club, Phil Jones misdirected a header wide, as did Patrice Evra.

Blackburn took heart from this unexpected reprieve and, buoyed by a combination of their excellent record in this fixture and two wins from their last three games, advanced themselves.

It was after a particularly dire performance in the Old Trafford encounter between these sides on New Year's Eve that De Gea was axed.

Such has been the dramatic improvement since then, though, that it was not much of a surprise when the Spain Under-21 star tipped a Junior Hoilett effort over.

Then, in a frantic final minute before the break, both Marcus Olsson and Grant Hanley - Blackburn's Old Trafford match-winner - were repelled.

It marked a change in attitude from the hosts, who continued to push forward with gusto when the teams re-emerged.

Scott Dann glanced a header wide, top scorer Yakubu wasted a couple of decent opportunities and Rio Ferdinand had to rescue De Gea who, after all that had gone before, blotted his copybook by spilling Morten Gamst Pedersen's thunderous effort.

After shock wins for Wigan and QPR against the Premier League's so-called giants over the past fortnight, Blackburn thought they had put themselves in line for another when Pedersen rasped home from 20 yards.

The home supporters were deflated, though, as it was ruled the ball had just crossed the line for a goal-kick before Steven Nzonzi pulled it back.

More heroics from Robinson to cut out a low Rooney cross in the middle of a crowd of bodies set Blackburn on their way again.

Had Ferdinand not managed to get to Yakubu in the nick of time, the Nigerian would surely have touched home Marcus Olsson's low cross at the near post.

United were starting to get desperate. But not for long.

Valencia has missed so much of this season through injury but there is a strong argument that he is the man of their campaign.

With time running out, it was the Ecuador wide-man who struck, drilling a shot past Robinson after darting into the box.

Young added another before the end with a neat finish from the edge of the box which just rubbed it in.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
football
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
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

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam