De Gea gift-wraps points for Blackburn
It was a 70th birthday to forget for Alex Ferguson as his expensive summer signing David de Gea gifted Blackburn two soft goals in a shock 3-2 defeat for the champions at Old Trafford. Ferguson branded the defeat "a disaster".
Victory would have left his side top of the Premier League this morning -- perhaps handing them an important psychological edge ahead of rivals Manchester City's trip to Sunderland this afternoon.
"It is a disaster," said Ferguson. "I never expected it. We lost two terrible goals and you can't do that." And even though his squad has been ravaged by injuries, there will still be questions over the team Ferguson sent out on the day of his 70th birthday, which included resting striker Wayne Rooney, who watched on in horror from a hospitality suite.
After successive clean sheets from Anders Lindegaard, questions will also be asked over De Gea, who appeared to have recovered from his early-season worries to reaffirm his status as United's No 1.
United fell two behind to a couple of Ayegbeni Yakubu efforts either side of the interval -- the second going through De Gea's legs -- but quickly replied through the revitalised Dimitar Berbatov, whose brace took his tally to five in two games. However, as the pressure for a winner intensified, Blackburn broke and when De Gea failed to collect a Morten Gamst Pedersen corner 10 minutes from time, Grant Hanley nodded in the winner from close range.
The Spain under 21 star's culpability for Blackburn's winner seemed obvious, although Ferguson refused to apportion blame. "We all could have done better," he said, when asked about De Gea. "It was a bad goal to lose."
Ferguson's annoyance was rammed home in even more forceful fashion by former Blackburn defender Phil Jones, who was facing his former club in a fixture he lost 7-1 with Rovers last term.
"I am gutted," he said. "The manager's birthday as well. We weren't at the races. Too slow, too laboured. Not quick enough. The injuries don't help. But they are no excuse. We were nowhere near good enough."
In fact, Jones felt United had not done themselves any favours by getting back on level terms so quickly. "That was our downfall, coming back too soon," he said. "I think we thought we had won it. We got two back, we thought we had won it and we eased off. They punished us. They thoroughly deserved their win. We weren't at the races today. It will be a bad New Year's Eve. I feel worse today than when we got smashed 7-1 last season playing for Blackburn. That puts into perspective how disappointed I am."
For Blackburn boss Steve Kean, it represented a stunning change in fortunes less than two weeks after it appeared certain he would be sacked after a terrible home defeat to Bolton. "To come to a place like this and get a result is up there with our best wins," he said. "As soon as it went to 2-1, we were thinking it was going to be tough. And at 2-2, it would have been a good point."
It flattened the atmosphere around Ferguson's birthday celebrations, which were accompanied by the Scot's confirmation he intends to remain in his job for another three years. "As long as my health stays up, I would hope to have another three years at the club. I am still enjoying it. We have defeats but compared to what we have achieved, they are minuscule."
Even in his programme notes, he gave little indication of having his legendary hunger for success sated by all his achievements.
"This time it is a milestone birthday and I suppose inevitably, Manchester United supporters are going to ask if a man of 70 is up to managing this great club. As someone who loves his job, I am not about to let my years alone dictate my future. At my age health becomes the key issue for a man's work and I am happy to say I have been blessed with stamina and energy that sees me coping with what I admit is a very demanding job."
And while he has regrets, including the three more Champions League final appearances he feels United should have had during his time in charge, the chance to land a third European Cup will drive him on, as will the opportunity to bring through another group of talented youngsters.
Elsewhere, third-placed Tottenham could not fully capitalise on United's slip as they could only draw 1-1 at Swansea -- the goals coming from Scott Sinclair for Swansea and Tottenham's Rafael van der Vaart. Chelsea were shocked 3-1 at home by Aston Villa, who had Stephen Ireland among the scorers, allowing Arsenal to move into the top four as Robin van Persie scored his 35th goal of 2011 to give his side a 1-0 victory over QPR. The Dutchman needed to score twice to equal Alan Shearer's record of 36 goals in a year.
Sunday Indo Sport