Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Red Devils tighten grip at the top

Antonio Valencia

Late goals from Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young sent Manchester United five points clear at the top of the Premier League with a 2-0 victory over Blackburn at Ewood Park.

Sir Alex Ferguson's men only went in level at the break thanks to a series of fine saves from David De Gea, but the Red Devils would made the breakthrough in the second half.

With time running out, it was Valencia who struck 10 minutes from time, drilling a shot past Paul Robinson after darting into the box. Young added another before the end with a neat finish from the edge of the box which just rubbed it in. The result also saw Rovers drop back into the bottom three on goal difference.

In the early stages, it seemed just a matter of time before the visitors opened their account. Michael Carrick curled a shot over and had a penalty claim turned down, before Phil Jones misdirected a header wide against his former club.

But Spain Under-21 star De Gea was forced to tip a Junior Hoilett effort over before the break, also repelling Marcus Olsson and Grant Hanley in spectacular fashion.

It marked a change in attitude from the hosts, who continued to push forward with gusto when the teams re-emerged.

Scott Dann glanced a header wide following the restart, top scorer Yakubu wasted a couple of decent opportunities and Rio Ferdinand had to rescue De Gea who, after all that had gone before, blotted his copybook by spilling Morten Gamst Pedersen's thunderous effort.

Steven Nzonzi then rifled the ball into the net following a pull-back, but to the disappointment of the home supporters, it was ruled the ball had crossed the line for a goal-kick.

United were starting to get desperate, but Valencia eventually grabbed the crucial goal, beating Robinson with pace from a difficult angle.

Young's composed strike sealed victory and gave United's cross-city rivals Manchester City considerable food for thought in the Premier League run-in.