Having emphatically seen off the only realistic threat to a 19th title with last weeks victory over Chelsea, United travelled to Ewood Park needing only 1 point to become champions with a game to spare. With almost 10,000 United fans descending upon north Lancashire expecting a result and to witness history, the pressure was on the reds who faced a Blackburn side fighting for survival, and who arguably cost United the title last season in the corresponding fixture. With only the game against Blackpool to come before the Champions League final against Barcelona, Fergie opted for his strongest XI with the intention of getting the job done before the final day of the season.
With the traveling reds roaring them on, United started the game with real purpose, as Rooney and Hernandez linked up sublimely looking as if they were intent on making it a long afternoon for Chris Samba and Phil Jones. United were unlucky not to take an early lead, as Rooney’s superb cross was met by Nani, who’s header thudded against the cross bar and away to safety. Rooney and co continued to dominate a cautious Blackburn side, who were being kept in the game by some superb defending from their centre back duo, who intervened on several occasions to stop United. Although the home side offered little going the other way, they found a helping hand in Thomaz Kuszczak, who looked very dodgy on several instances, firstly with a horrible moment of indecision on the edge of the area which allowed him to be tackled, and secondly, his failure to claim a cross into the box allowed Blackburn to exploit the disorientated United defence, culminating in Brett Emerton firing in the opening goal at the back post with a sweeping shot.
With the reds 1-0 down, and having been notoriously poor away from home, it looked at half time as though United again were in for a difficult afternoon with the title race possibly going down to the last day of the season again. United emerged from half time looking eager, yet the pattern of the match continued in much the same fashion, with Blackburn proving very difficult to break down with young England U-21 defender Phil Jones proving to be an immovable force. With United looking bereft of ideas, the turning point came on 65 minutes, as Ollson latched onto a Brett Emerton cross, only for his header to thunder against the post with Kuszczak left helplessly bystanding. Having received a huge lifeline, United immediately responded minutes later, as a superb through ball to Hernandez allowed the Mexican to bring down in the penalty area, before being felled by the onrushing Paul Robinson. Despite hesitation from the referee Phil Dowd, consultation with his linesman ensured the correct decision was made awarding United a crucial penalty. Up stepped Rooney, who emphatically smashed the ball into the bottom corner sending the hordes of travelling reds into delirium as title number 19 loomed large.
With both sides content with a point, the last 15 minutes were merely a formality, with both sets of back fours exchanging turns in keeping possession with neither side showing any intent to go for the winner. 3 minutes of stoppage time continued in the same fashion, and after what felt like an eternity, the final whistle came as United sealed a historic 19th title, thus making them the most successful English club, overtaking arch rivals Liverpool. Fergie and the United squad savoured the moment in front of the travelling fans, with choruses of ‘are you watching Mersyside’ ringing out throughout Ewood Park. Although there are many who have suggested this United side are by no means a vintage one, regardless they have made their own place in the great history of this club, and have the opportunity to further that on the 28th May as we face Barcelona for the right to become European champions. Whatever is said about this United side in years to come, what cannot be taken away from them is their will to win, and commitment to becoming champions this season in the face of adversity and criticism. The challenge now for United is how we will replace some of the ageing members of our squad, such as Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, who this season have still played a pivotal role in the clubs success. With Ferguson at the helm however, United have the master of rebuilding teams, and I am sure that we will be back again next season confident of retaining our title. United will receive the trophy after next weeks game against Blackpool, before facing Barcelona at Wembley the following weekend.
That last 15 minutes had to be the first time I’ve ever seen Fergie looking at his watch and asking the ref to blow the whistle early.