Blackburn Rovers v Manchester United
Ewood Park, Saturday 19 April 2008, 17:15
The numbers point, as usual, to a United win – Blackburn have lost to United more than they’ve lost to any other team since the Premier League started, we did the double against them last season, Blackburn have lost 7 out of 7 fixtures against the Big Four this season, lost the last game to Liverpool while United are on a high after beating Arsenal.
Blackburn’s season is more or less over – they have an outside chance for qualifying for Europe via the InterToto Cup but that will require several results to go their way. United have, after beating Arsenal on Sunday and watching Chelsea draw with Wigan, one hand on the title, but it will take all their professionalism and focus to finish the job off as champions.
This fixture is the first of four season-deciding matches for United – Blackburn away on Saturday evening is followed by Barcelona away on Wednesday, Chelsea away on Saturday (early afternoon kickoff) before hosting Barcelona at home on Tuesday. 4 games in 11 days that will more or less make the difference between a good and great season.
With that in mind, Ferguson may choose to rotate some of his squad and rest a couple of his players on Saturday. You’d think that Ronaldo is undroppable, considering his form but to me he’s seemed like needing a rest in the last couple of games and surely sitting on the bench is better than having lumps kicked out of him on Saturday.
The other person who might be held back is Owen Hargreaves (who is injured according to some reports but with no official word I doubt it) – Hargo has been in great form whenever he’s played for United and (as long as he can keep his tendonitis under control) will be a valuable squad member in the coming years.
There have been rumours that Vidic will be ready to start against Blackburn. As much as I’d like him to start playing again, I’m thinking (hoping) that Fergie gives Pique another runout and holds Vida back for Barcelona (or he could rest Rio and start with Vidic, depends on what Fergie sees on the training ground on Friday).
However, I don’t expect wholesale changes. Fergie and the players know that if United can scrape to wins over the next 11 days, they’ll have enough time to rest. Expect this side to go at Blackburn all guns blazing, with Giggs, and possibly Silvestre and Anderson getting starts. Too bad Fletch isn’t back – he would have been good for this type of (scrappy) game.
Prediction: 2-1 to United.
Over to you.