May 14, 2011 1715 IST (+0530 GMT)
Saturday, 14th of May is the date, for Manchester United’s tryst with destiny! Ferguson’s men displayed all the qualities of potential champions against reigning champions Chelsea to wrestle the title back to Old Trafford. Now, Nemanja Vidic led United side must get the job done, a single point is all that is needed.
Steve Kean’s Rovers are in free fall. The club’s new Indian owners haven’t made any friends since they took over the reins, especially since the takeover was marked by the sacking of Big Sam. A look at the reverse fixture could demoralize even the most optimistic of Rovers fan – a 7-1 mauling at Old Trafford. However, the Riversiders have always been formidable opponents at Ewood Park, so Ferguson’s United side cannot expect a free ride to the title. Rovers are precariously close to the drop zone and could be sucked into the mire if results at the bottom don’t go their way. Currently, they lie in 15th place with 39 points from 36 games, a mere three points above the relegation zone.
Manchester United have Wembley and Barcelona on their minds and hence, a few tweaks to their starting XI might not come as a surprise. However, with Blackburn fighting for their premiership status, Red Devils cannot afford to take their eye of the ball. This is the moment of truth for both the sides; the once mighty Rovers need a favorable result to guarantee top flight football whereas the all conquering Man United are on the brink of recreating history. This isn’t an end of a season dead rubber; the game is as big as they come.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Venky’s rein at Ewood has been disastrous so far. Steve Kean looks out of his depth as a premier league manager and the team’s performances has been lackluster for months now. One of only four teams to win the English Premier League title now face the ultimate embarrassment of getting relegated from the division they once were crowned the champions of. Last weekend, the Rovers could have ensured safety had they defeated bottom-placed West Ham but despite dominating Avram Grant’s side for large quarters of the game, Rovers somehow managed to fluff their lines and in the end were lucky to come out even with a draw.
The visit of potential champions may just be the kick needed to galvanize Kean’s faltering Rovers side into action. To do that Rovers need to be more prolific in front of goal, 21 goals in 18 games at home so far, is a shockingly abysmal return from any standards. Nikola Kalinic is the highest goal scorer with a paltry total of five league goals.
Michel Salgado is expected to be back for the Rovers after missing the West Ham game and that should be encouraging news for the under-fire Steve Kean. Mame Biram Diouf is on loan from Man United and hence, ineligible to play against his parent club. Jason Roberts scored last weekend and is expected to start alongside David Hoilett. Roque Santa Cruz wants to make his loan spell at Ewood into a permanent deal, but he hasn’t helped matters by not scoring in the league since March. David Dunn is a concern for the Rovers as he is struggling from a calf strain, whereas inspirational leader Ryan Nelsen has been ruled out for the rest of the season with an injured knee. All eyes will be on Morten Gamst Pederson, who has previously troubled Man United on a couple of occasions.
Christopher Samba might be on his way out from Ewood after the season ends but his towering presence is a big boon for the Blackburn side. With a trip to fellow relegation favorites Wolves awaiting Kean’s men on the final day of the season, Blackburn will do well to secure safety in their own backyard albeit against a well oiled red machine.
Probable Starting Line-up: Robinson, Samba, Givet, Olsson, Salgado, J.Jones, N’Zozi, Emerton, Pederson, Hoilett, Roberts
Fergie’s men were brilliant last weekend at fortress Old Trafford. The emphatic win has brought Man United on the door step of their nineteenth league title; the famous knocking off the perch statement now seems a reality like never before. A point at Ewood Park will be enough for Sir Alex to achieve an unprecedented 12th Premier league title as manager of the club. Man United will look to take the Riversiders by storm in an attempt to get the result they need this weekend, and then, look to rest players for the Blackpool game as the Champions league final looms large.
Expect a strong United side, not too dissimilar to the one that defeated Chelsea the previous weekend. However, the likes of Dimitar Berbatov and Luis Nani might be brought in as they have been United’s shining knights all season long. Berbatov is still the league’s highest goal scorer and might be called into action but Hernandez‘s performances have been so impressive that Ferguson would surely be tempted to start with the Mexican hit man. Park Ji Sung produced his greatest performance in a United shirt last weekend and is almost a certainty to start the Barca game. However, he might be replaced by the more flamboyant Nani as the Portuguese has been deprived of first team action, off-late.
In the middle of the park, Michael Carrick walks straight into the starting XI. Ryan Giggs partnered Carrick at Old Trafford against Chelsea and did a stellar job. However, the 37 year-old veteran might be given a break and either of Anderson or Fletcher could get the nod instead. Darren Fletcher will surely play some part this weekend as he faces a race against time to get fit for the big game against Barcelona. The gaffer might opt to rest Rio Ferdinand and field the reliable Chris Smalling. Also, Patrice Evra’s inclusion remains a doubt as he is yet to recover from his knock. One of the Da Silva brothers could be involved in the full back positions; Fabio is expected to get the nod. Fitness permitting, John O’shea should also be involved as his aerial prowess will come in handy against the likes of Christopher Samba from set pieces.
Man United veteran Paul Scholes will be included in the squad and with the Ginger man yet to sign a contract extension, this could yet be his penultimate league game in the Red of United.
Latest Update (0700 GMT – Friday): Van Der Sar is expected to be rested after suffering a minor elbow injury.
Probable Starting Line-up: Van Der Sar, Fabio, Vidic, Smalling, O’ Shea, Nani, Carrick, Anderson, Valencia, Rooney, Hernandez
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Dimitar Berbatov (Man United): The Bulgarian is leading the goals tally and is a strong candidate for the golden boot honor. When the two clubs met in the reverse fixture earlier this season, Berbatov was in sublime form as he dispatched five goals past a hapless Robinson. If Berba starts this weekend, all eyes will be on him to deliver once again and wrap up the title for Manchester United.
Blackburn 0-1 Man United
Man United need a solitary point to confirm their status as the league champions. Expect them to fight hard and pile further pressure on Kean and Rovers.
TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST