Blackburn 0 Man Utd 2
Paul Ince discovered who the real ’guv’nor’ is at Ewood Park as this particular pupil found the Manchester United master Alex Ferguson too much to deal with.
The nickname Ince attached to himself as a player is more suited to Ferguson given the enormous number of trophies he has acquired in a stellar managerial career.
And the view from his Blackburn technical area was an unpleasant picture for Ince as United sauntered to victory thanks to a goal in each half from Wes Brown and Wayne Rooney.
Watching England coach Fabio Capello must have been delighted at Rooney’s contribution, although how he must wish he could call on Anderson and Dimitar Berbatov, the instigators of United’s first back-to-back successes of the season.
With just one win from their previous six visits to Blackburn, United were not expecting an easy ride and, for the opening 25 minutes at least, they were not disappointed.
Roque Santa Cruz had a clear edge on Nemanja Vidic, while Matt Derbyshire and Brett Emerton appeared capable of finding space at will.
Had Derbyshire been able to convert Andre Ooijer’s superb through ball, with the massed ranks of United’s defence converging on the rebound after Edwin van der Sar had made the initial block, Rovers might have maintained their offensive.
Instead it was United who prospered and although Darren Fletcher could not supply the finish to Berbatov’s sublime pass, the visitors gained in control as the game went on.
Berbatov was again the architect as Ryan Giggs’ angled drive was tipped onto the bar by Brown. But it proved the briefest of reprieves for Paul Robinson’s deputy.
It would be fair to suggest if the contact between Rovers keeper Jason Brown and Vidic had involved Van der Sar, at Old Trafford, the hosts would have been awarded a free-kick.
TV replays proved there had been a collision but also that the Serbian had never taken his eyes off the ball.
There was further irony in that Rooney was a major doubt yesterday, only to come through a fitness test on the ankle he injured in Denmark on Tuesday and then supply the cross which, with namesake James on the deck, Wes Brown steered home at the far post.
Aside from Rooney, Capello must also have been delighted with the contribution of Brown, who had seemingly been eclipsed by teenage Brazilian Rafael Da Silva as the major right-back threat to injured skipper Gary Neville.
Brown may play against Kazakhstan next Saturday, Rooney definitely will be involved in the World Cup qualifier at Wembley. He should have doubled United’s lead before the break, only for Brown to save his close-range effort, although his best moment was still to come.
Santa Cruz had drifted out of the game and though he briefly lifted the home fans with a powerful drive Van der Sar was forced to push behind at the start of the second period, the Paraguayan was soon making his way to the dug-out for an injury-enforced change that hardly enhanced Blackburn’s chances of getting something out of the game.
It looked like Ronaldo was going to provide Ferguson with an injury worry of his own when he gingerly held his right ankle after having a shot blocked by Christopher Samba.
However, the prospective world player of the year quickly recovered and, after failing to find the finish when the impressive Berbatov had done the creating, he surged past Martin Olsson after collecting Brown’s short pass by the touchline.
And, having charged into open space, Ronaldo was able to take his time and pick out Rooney, who produced an unstoppable first-time finish that flashed into the Blackburn goal.
Rooney, dropping deep following Carlos Tevez’s introduction for Giggs, steamed through the Blackburn defence and beat Brown with a deft chip that dropped onto the roof of the net.
Berbatov also found himself one-on-one with the Blackburn keeper but could not get round him before Anderson’s angled drive brought an acrobatic save out of Brown.
Tevez splashed through the puddles to reach Ronaldo’s cut-back, only for the Argentina forward to strike a post with United’s last chance in what had turned out to be a one-sided romp.