“This is Fergie. Aye’m not arsed coming to the phone right now and even if aye was, aye wouldnae talk to ye. Leave a message and aye might get back to ye.” BEEP
Someone in Premier League HQ: Hi Fergie, listen, no need to turn go to Ewood Park tonight. We’ve had a look at the form guide and the strength of both squads and we’re just going to give you the three points instead. Enjoy your evening at home. I recommend watching Embarrassing Bodies. Never knew it was possible to have an ear growing on your ass, but you learn something new every day. Toodle-pip.”
Obviously the above scenario is too outlandish for even Sir Alex Ferguson to pull off. But according to some previews, it’s one small step away from what Manchester United have to do this evening. All they need to do is turn up and they’ll open up a five point cushion at the top according to some quarters, but is it really that straightforward?
There’s one small, but significant stat that says far from not a cert. On their last 11 league visits to Ewood Park. United have taken just 12 out of a possible 33 points. Now admittedly that stat covers a period when (a) Blackburn weren’t so crap and (b) they weren’t managed by Steve Kean, but last season Rovers were both crap and managed by Steve Kean and they still made life very uncomfortable for United. It took a late-ish Rooney penalty to earn the point that won them the league and with Blackburn again locked in a relegation royal rumble, it will be a trickier evening than many are anticipating.
The big advantage is clearly the quality they have across the pitch. Without ever really reaching the peak of his powers, Wayne Rooney has scored 17 goals in his last 17 games and that’s particularly useful at this time of the year. Jonny Evans is a man so maligned it feels like his name should permanently be split up into four syllables, said with an air of disbelief and followed by an exclamation mark. In contrast to much of the evidence of his Old Trafford career to date, he has been very good deputising for the injured Nemanja Vidic. The midfield seems to receive about as much praise as Hitler’s foreign policy, but clearly they’re doing something right to keep the well-oiled machine ticking over.
With City bums squeaking and their egos creaking, it looks almost certain that United will eventually go on to claim title number 20. That said however, tonight’s game will be trickier than the league table might suggest. A week ago they laboured to victory over Fulham at home helped by a controversial ‘not a penalty’ decision. It may not be all Rover just yet.