Manchester United 2 Blackburn Rovers 1

Saturday 22nd November
Old Trafford, Manchester

Despite holding what looked like a comfortable two-nil lead at half-time, Manchester United were lucky to come away from the game with all three points, as Blackburn fought and drove towards an equalising goal, but never quite managed to do enough.

United put out a make-shift united team, with the Euro 2004 playoffs dictating to a certain extent the team for Sir Alex. Giggs, Ronaldo, Fletcher and Forlan were all rested, with new-boys Bellion and Kleberson getting their first Premiership starts. With Blackburn having lost 7 of the last 9 games, the chances of the match finishing favourably on the Reds was high.

Blackburn were the first team to threaten the opposition's goal, although the half chance presented to United old-boy Dwight Yorke was wasted by the Trinidad and Tobago international.

Twenty minutes of gaining each others respect ensued, with Keane marshalling the United 5-man midfield, before United made the breakthrough. Van Nistelrooy played an integral part in the setting up of the goal, and finished it himself. On the edge of the box he played the ball to the edge of the D, where Quinton Fortune was waiting. A clever flick over the defence and into Ruud's path led to the usual celebrations, with Ruud taking one touch to control the ball, and another to lash it home through a small gap between goalie and front-post.

Fortune also had a large part to play in the second goal Bellion's cross from the right wing fell to him 12 yards out at the back-post. His one-touch pass to the on-rushing Kleberson allowed the Brazilian time and space to pick his spot and roll the ball home for his first goal in a Manchester United shirt.

With the passing fluent and fast, Blackburn were struggling to contend with the Reds in the first half, although that all changed in the second. United came out of the tunnel with less energy, and were starting to be beaten to each and every ball.

A lucky escape came with half-an-hour to go. Howard could only palm a shot to Yorke's feet. Yorke poked the ball home, but his celebrations were cut short by the Linesman. He was wrongly adjudged to have been offside.

United drove forward, helped on by the shouting and snarling Roy Keane, but still conceded. Australian Emerton was played in at the corner of the area. He was left one-on-one with Howard, and finished clinically to leave Blackburn with hope.

Blackburn lay siege to the goal but were unable to penetrate the defence, with Silvestre and Rio making stop fter stop. Giggs and Ronaldo came on and did well to hold up the ball in Blackburn's final third, leaving Blackburn to become increasingly frustrated.

It was far fro a vintage performance, but it was more than good enough to see off their North-West rivals, and bodes well for the crucial Panathinaikos game on Wednesday.

Man Utd: Howard, Gary Neville, Ferdinand, Silvestre, O'Shea, Kleberson, Keane, Phil Neville, Fortune (Giggs 85), Bellion (Ronaldo 73), van Nistelrooy (Forlan 89).

Subs Not Used: Butt, Carroll.

Blackburn: Friedel, Todd, Short, Babbel, Gresko, Emerton, Ferguson, Flitcroft (Baggio 78), Reid (Johansson 45), Jansen (Gallagher 45), Yorke.

Subs Not Used: Enckelman, Martin Taylor.

Booked: Ferguson.

Attendance: 67,748

Referee: M Halsey (Lancashire).