Blackburn Rovers 1 Manchester United 0

Saturday 1st May 2004
Ewood Park, Blackburn

United fell to their ninth defeat of the season after yet another sorry performance against inferior opposition. After having the lions share of possession, United typically managed to concede a scrappy goal late on in the game, and by the time they'd worked out which way they were supposed to be shooting, it was a case of "Too little, too late".

Sir Alex had chosen to field a team which boasted the goalscoring prowess of not Ruud, Saha nor Scholes, but Solskjaer as a lone striker. He opted for grafters in midfield, such as Djemba-Djemba, Butt and Neville, and even included Kleberson back after an 8 month siesta. There was no space in his squad for Ronaldo, or Keane. Thankfully, Sir Alex opted with the usual back-four, and Howard got the nod over Roy Carroll in goals.

United failed to get into their stride during a scrappy first half, recording only one shot (And that was tam and off-target). Put simply, they did not look like the team of World beaters that we have come to expect at United. They didn't get hold of the ball, didn't show any great conviction in fighting for it, and looked so blunt up front that the Blackburn manager, Graeme Souness, was probably wondering whether he should revert to a two-man defence.

Blackburn had the better of the first half, and nearly made it count. Luckily for United, ex-united player Andy Cole was deemed to be in an offside position when he lobbed the ball past Howard and into the United goal.

Even after that warning, United still couldn't ignite the fire in their bellies. They instead passed the ball sloppily and preferred to roll the ball back to Tim Howard rather than use it to attack the Blackburn goals with.

After a half-time rollicking by Sir Alex, United came out fitter, faster, sharper and stronger. They looked as if they actually cared about the game, and passes became more accurate, and tackles more aggressive. But even this did not give United the upper hand. They still lacked the creativity and firepower necessary to score a goal in the Premier League.

After yet more Blackburn attacking play interrupted only momentarily by the odd meaningless foray forward by United Sir Alex decided he had to try and win the game, and made a few changes. On came Forlan and Bellion. Not prolific goalscorers, but people who actually have a chance of scoring when they're given the ball 8 yards out.

After 85 minutes, Blackburns' young striker managed to worm his way through the United defence, and Howard had no chance as he rifled the ball into the roof of the net. With 5 minutes to go, it was always going to be tough for United to equalise, let alone win the game. They began to attack with ferocity, but to no avail.

Then, in the last attack of the game, the ball swung across the box, right to where Forlan was waiting for it. From two yards out, and with a free header, there should have been no other conclusion than a Goal for United. However, even from 2 yards out Forlan proved to be ineffective, and sent the ball soaring miserably over the cross-bar.

This was a terrible display, by a poor side. United fans deserve better.

Blackburn: Friedel, Neill, Babbel, Johansson, Gray, Andresen, Flitcroft, Tugay (Emerton 90), Douglas, Stead, Cole (Gallagher 84).

Subs not used: Reid, Yorke, Enckelman. Booked: Flitcroft, Gallagher.

Man Utd: Howard, Gary Neville, Silvestre, Brown, O'Shea, Phil Neville, Butt (Bellion 70), Djemba-Djemba (Fletcher 81), Giggs, Kleberson (Forlan 77), Solskjaer.

Subs not used: Spector, Carroll. Booked: Solskjaer.