Manchester United 2 Blackburn 3: Rovers spoil the party as Yakubu and Hanley make it unhappy 70th birthday for Ferguson
Blackburn were the party-poopers as Steve Kean”s side ruined Sir Alex Ferguson”s birthday with a hard-fought win at the home of the Premier League champions.
Fans sang to Ferguson as he celebrated his 70th birthday on the same day it was revealed he intends to stay at Old Trafford for another three years.
But Rovers are fighting for their Premier League lives and manager Kean was determined to spoil the party for his fellow Scot.
Stranded: David De Gea (right) is left helpless as Grant Hanley heads in Blackburn”s winner against United
Man Utd: De Gea, Rafael Da Silva (Will Kean 85), Jones, Carrick, Evra, Nani, Valencia, Park, Welbeck, Hernandez, (Anderson 46), Berbatov.
Subs not used: Lindegaard, Diouf, Pogba, Fryers, Cole.
Goals: Berbatov 52, 62
Booked: Carrick, Nani
Blackburn: Bunn, Lowe, Samba, Hanley, Pedersen, Henley, Nzonzi, Petrovic, Rochina (Morris 55), Formica (Goodwillie 85), Yakubu (Slew 89).
Subs not used: Kean, Blackman, Vukcevic, Linganzi.
Goals: Yakubu 16, 51, Hanley 80
Booked: Petrovic, Lowe
Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral)
Yakubu silenced the home crowd with apenalty after Dimitar Berbatov pulled down Chris Samba and the striker grabbed his second early in the second half.
Berbatov nipped in to score just seconds later and doubled his own tally with a cool finish from Antonio Valencia”s delivery.
But despite piling on the pressure, it was United who were undone as David de Gea failed to collect Morten Gamst Pedersen”s corner, allowing Grant Hanley to head home the winner 10 minutes from time.
It represented Kean”s best win as Blackburn manager, taking them off the foot of the table, and left Ferguson to question the wisdom of not even putting a rested Wayne Rooney on the bench.
The party atmosphere at kick-off proved to be a false guide to what followed.
In a pre-recorded interview with MUTV, Ferguson confirmed his future plans, which would make him by some distance the Premier League”s oldest manager.
Big day: Sir Alex Ferguson was all smiles at the start of the game on the day of his 70th birthday
Faithful: Ferguson was given a rousing reception by the United fans before his side faced Blackburn
The Scot then received a rendition of “Happy Birthday to you” from the home fans, setting the scene for the slaughter expected to follow.
Except United, injury-hit to the extent of having to name Rafael and Park Ji-sung as central midfield partners, were not up to the task.
The fluency that had carried them to eight wins from nine league games since their only defeat, that 6-1 massacre by Manchester City in October, was so obviously missing.
Hard to watch: Ferguson”s mood soon changed as his United side struggled to cope with Blackburn
Top men: Sir Alex and Steve Kean head in at half-time with the Rovers boss the happier of the two
Nani was an obvious attacking outlet but had one of his frustrating days and neither Berbatov, Hernandez nor Danny Welbeck could plot a path through the massed ranks of Blackburn”s defence.
Twenty-four hours earlier, Ferguson had confirmed an intention to hand Berbatov an extra year”s contract.
He must have felt like snatching it away, when the Bulgarian followed up his Boxing Day hat-trick against Wigan by hauling Christopher Samba over in the box.
At a club as unstable as Blackburn, one of the few certainties is that from the spot, Yakubu does not miss and the Nigerian promptly sent De Gea the wrong way.
Cool head: Yakubu slams home his penalty to give Blackburn the lead against Manchester United
Party pooper: Blackburn striker Yakubi celebrates scoring against United on Sir Alex”s 70th birthday
United”s response was strange in that, without playing well, they started to create opportunities.
Nani was off target with a couple of efforts then the Portugal winger was denied by Rovers” stand-in keeper Mark Bunn, as was Hernandez.
At one point, Hernandez also got in the way of a goalbound effort from Phil Jones, who had recovered from illness to face his former club for the first time since his 17million move to Old Trafford.
Pilloried by his own fans immediately before Christmas, Rovers boss Kean had now seen his side take first-half leads at Liverpool and United in a staggering six-day spell.
Up and under: Manchester United winger Nani struggles to find a way past Blackburn”s Mauro Formica
With no Rooney to assist his team, Ferguson turned to Anderson at the break, a move that triggered a number of positional changes, the most significant of which saw Valencia shifted into an advanced position.
But, before United had a chance to see whether the tactical switches would work, they fell further behind.
Yakubu had too much strength for makeshift central defender Michael Carrick as he turned on the edge of the area, then nipped past Jones before drilling his shot through De Gea”s legs.
Getting stuck in: Rafael tries to make progress for United but he is stopped by a challenge from Grant Hanley
Disastrously for Blackburn, they conceded themselves within 20 seconds of the restart as United advanced, the ball eventually finding its way to Rafael whose bouncing cross-shot was nodded home by Berbatov.
So often have Ferguson”s teams recovered from such unpromising situations down the years, Kean must have felt sick.
His side started to get overwhelmed by the tide of red attacks, with Valencia to the fore.
Head boy: Hanley (centre) wheels away to celebrate sinking Manchester United
It was the South American”s burst of pace and subsequent cut-back that provided Berbatov with the opportunity to side-foot United level.
Minutes later, Bunn almost unbelievably prevented Grant Hanley from turning Berbatov”s cross into his own net. He did not know much about it though, as the ball flew over off his outstretched foot.
The weight of attacks on the Blackburn goal was immense. Yet United”s commitment was so great they forgot to defend, and once again the questions were raised over De Gea, who came to collect Pedersen”s corner.
Instead, Hanley won the first header, then found the bottom corner with his second.
United resolve was sapped and their hopes of snatching the point that would take them top of the table disappeared when Bunn and home debutant Will Keane got in the way of Jones” injury-time effort.
Head down: A dejected Ferguson makes his way back to the changing room after losing to Blackburn