MANCHESTER UNITED 2
MANCHESTER United manager Sir Alex Ferguson last night warned rivals Manchester City his side are primed to fight to the bitter end to defend their title after two late goals increased their lead to five points.
Wingers Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young struck in the last 10 minutes to earn United a typically tardy victory – their seventh in succession in the Premier League – and take a huge step towards the trophy.
United could be eight points clear by the time faltering City take the field at Arsenal on Sunday, and Ferguson promised that his players would not let up in pursuit of glory in their remaining seven fixtures.
“They are all big games now,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s next Sunday, next Wednesday, Sunday after that, they are all big. The players are prepared for that. We’ll fight right to the end in all the games for the right to win the matches.”
Ferguson singled out Valencia for praise after the livewire Ecuadorian’s fierce cross-shot finally opened the scoring in the 81st minute.
“It could’ve been a cross or a shot – it doesn’t matter,” he added. “He hit it with such power it was always going to be a problem for the defenders. It was a fantastic finish. I thought he was the best player on the pitch.”
Defeat deepened Blackburn’s woes, plunging them back into the relegation zone on goal difference – a harsh outcome from a match in which they drew the best out of improving United goalkeeper David de Gea.
The Spaniard made two fine tip-overs just before half-time, from Marcus Olsson’s shot and a Grant Hanley header, having earlier palmed away a rasping Junior Hoilett drive.
His opposite number, Paul Robinson, was equally alert in clutching a Javier Hernandez near-post flick that ricocheted off the upright, after another of Valencia’s relentless raids.
Ferguson threw on Ryan Giggs, Danny Welbeck and Young in search of a goal, but it was no surprise that it came from the South American, whose drive with the outside of his right foot tore past Robinson.
Deflated Rovers were similarly helpless to stop the second, when Young engineered a fraction of space with his back to goal and whipped a precise low drive just inside Robinson’s left-hand post.