Man Utd 2, Blackburn 3
Manchester United’s players gave Sir Alex Ferguson the footballing equivalent of a slap in the face with a wet fish rather than a performance worthy of the Reds manager’s 70th birthday.
Relegation-haunted Blackburn must have thought that Christmas had come twice in a week when they followed up a surprise point at Anfield with three more from Old Trafford.
United’s present to their Lancashire cousins was gift-wrapped with three dreadful mistakes.
A point would have been enough to see United leapfrog over neighbours City to top the Premier League at the start of 2012.
A draw, or even a win, looked on the cards after United had levelled the scores after being 2-0 down.
But the worst howler of the lot was to come 10 minutes from time to secure a shock defeat for the champions.
Ferguson had been forced to reshuffle his depleted playing pack yet again, but this time proved to be a spectacular failure.
Old fashioned Blackburn centre-forward Ayegbeni Yakubu cruelly exposed United midfielder Michael Carrick’s limitations as an emegency centre-half.
The decision to play right-back Rafael Da Silva in the centre of midfield was an abject failure and was abandoned at half time when Anderson returned after injury.
Ferguson will also have to decide which of his two senior goalkeepers is to be the first choice.
Anders Lindegaard has conceded only one goal in seven first-team outings, while David De Gea has leaked 26 in 19 appearances.
It was De Gea’s error which led to Blackburn’s 80th minute winner.
The Spaniard flapped wildly at Morten Gamst Pedersen’s corner, enabling Grant Hanley to get in a header from 10 yards on the far post.
De Gea and his defence was still hopelessly at sea as Hanley followed up to score with a follow up header from close range.
Rovers had taken a 16th minute lead in a poor first half when United striker Dimitar Berbatov held down Blackburn defender Christopher Samba in the Reds box.
Referee Mike Dean awarded a penalty and Yakubu coolly slotted the resulting kick into the right side of the net.
Blackburn made it 2-0 six minutes after the interval.
Collecting the ball on the left, Yakubu breezed past Carrick’s limp challenge and completely wrong-footed Phil Jones before slotting the ball beyond De Gea and into the net from 10 yards.
United were back in the game from the kick-off when a sweeping move forward ended with Ji Sung Park crossing the ball from the right side of the Rovers box for Berbatov to nod home from six yards on the near post.
The Reds were level 10 minutes later.
Pedersen’s poor clearance was headed back by Rafael to Antonio Valencia and he cleverly dragged the ball back into the centre from the right side of the Blackburn penalty area where Berbatov side footed the ball into the net from 10 yards.
The crowd waited for the winner, but it was Blackburn who supplied it.
United’s afternoon was summed up three minutes into injury time when Jones’ goalbound shot was stopped on the line by one of hgis own players – substitute Will Keane.
Ferguson said: “We lost two terrible goals. Blackburn were resilient, but the mistakes we made gave them the strength to hold on.
“Heavy rain made the pitch boggy and that did not help us, but we rallied in the second half and got back into the game.”
Blackburn boss Steve Kean said: “It was great to win at Old Trafford. We are desperate for wins and to come here and win with such a young team is a real achievement.
“It was a physically draining pitch, but this result is massive and we have to build on it.”