Manchester United play host to Blackburn Rovers at Old Trafford in the Barclays Premier League, and the Reds should have payback on their mind.
Last season, Blackburn played the role of spoiler with great aplomb by foiling United’s attempt to win the Premier League title by securing a nil-nil draw away at Ewood Park, so that recent set back will be weighing heavy on home team’s brains.
United, though, come into the match winning their last two matches against Wigan Athletic and Rangers, but they are not the only team that will be in good spirits.
Blackburn defeated Aston Villa, a team that pushed United to brink a few weeks ago, 2-0 at the weekend, but it is what happened in the board room that will give the visitors a much-needed boost.
A week ago, an Indian company has come in to rescue Blackburn from their financial worries and purchased 99.9% of the Lancashire club for just £23 million – a far cry from what the Red Football Joint Venture Ltd bought United for in 2005.
Venky’s London Limited has promised to back Sam Allardyce with the funds needed to stabilize the team, and make Rovers the club it once was in the mid-1990s when they pipped United for the 1994/95 Premiership trophy.
Blackburn is currently sitting in 11th place following three wins from their last four matches, and has steadily climbed away from the relegation zone with their recent good form.
Allardyce, who is one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s closest allies in the Premier League, has done a very good job managing his lack of resources to pull Rovers just 10 points back of the league leaders after 14 games.
Their league position is exactly where they should be based on the amount of goals they have scored and conceded, because Blackburn is 11th in both with 17 for, and 18 against this season.
Their defense has only given up three more goals than United, but Blackburn has scored 11 fewer goals, but that has been down to not have a proven center forward at the club, and is the position that Allardyce will address in the January transfer window.
Morten Gamst Pedersen is the club’s leading goal scorer with four goals to his name – but that was abetted by his two goals against Villa.
Christopher Samba, who serves as the team captain, will partner the club’s official captain, Ryan Nelsen, who used to play for DC United in Major League Soccer, in the heart of the Rovers’ defense.
However, the United defenders will have to be weary of both of them on set-pieces, because Samba is 6’4″ and Nelsen is 6’1″, so they will be a force to be reckoned with when Pedersen floats in one of his tempting free-kicks.
Phil Jones is a player that United fans should be watching, because the 18-year old has been tipped to become one of the best center-backs in English football, and Ferguson has been linked with a potential for him as well.
United’s Senegalese forward, Mame Biram Diouf, is currently on loan with Allardyce’s club, but due to the restrictions of the deal, he will watch from the stands.
One player that should not, but needs to be mentioned, is Blackburn’s Jason Roberts, who is tied in second scoring two goals, but the center forward refused to celebrate with his teammates after scoring the winner against Newcastle United, because he wants to move away from Ewood Park.
United has slowly, but surely crept to go level on points with Chelsea at the summit of the standings with some good performances, and the Reds should be making a push with Wayne Rooney now back in the line-up.
Unless a person lives under a rock, everyone has heard about Rooney shaking off some of his rust and scoring the decisive penalty against Rangers in the UEFA Champions League, which was matched by his celebration with the fans.
A lot of critics have failed to realize that United are deceptively level for top spot in goal scored this season in the Premier League – with Arsenal and Chelsea – as well, so to have one more proven goal scorer to choose from will only benefit Sir Alex.
Two players that are certain returns for the Gaffer are first-choice center-back combination, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, after they were rested for the midweek match.
United will be without one of their key figures, because Darren Fletcher is suffering from an ankle injury, which will keep the tireless midfielder out until at least the first week of December.
Manchester United might have some concerns in the center of the midfield, but in the end the Reds should have the class – and depth – to see off a resurgent Blackburn Rovers team, and, ultimately, walkout of the match atop of the Barclays Premier League standings – seeing that Chelsea does not play until Sunday.
Out: A. Valencia (leg), O. Hargreaves (hamstring), M. Owen (hamstring), D. Fletcher (ankle); Doubtful: P. Scholes (groin)
E. van der Sar; Rafael, R. Ferdinand, N. Vidic, P. Evra; Anderson, R. Giggs, M. Carrick, J. S. Park, Nani; D. Berbatov, W. Rooney
Manchester United 2 Blackburn Rovers 0