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Wednesday, 22 January, 2003, 21:57 GMT
Man Utd coast to final
Paul Scholes levels for Man Utd at Blackburn
Paul Scholes levels for Man Utd at Blackburn
Blackburn Rovers 1-3 Manchester United
(Man Utd win 4-2 on aggregate)

Manchester United produced a masterly attacking display to beat Blackburn Rovers and clinch a Worthington Cup final date with Liverpool in Cardiff.

Sir Alex Ferguson's side deservedly set up a glamour clash at The Millennium Stadium with a comprehensive victory against the holders.

Blackburn threatened to repeat last season's heroics when former Manchester United striker Andy Cole gave them an early lead at Ewood Park.

But Paul Scholes - on target for the sixth successive game - struck twice before the interval.

And Ruud van Nistelrooy's third from the penalty spot was no more than United deserved after a performance that left Blackburn well beaten.

Andy Cole celebrates his goal
Andy Cole celebrates his goal

Cole insisted Blackburn were fired up for the challenge - and he proved his point by giving them the lead after eight minutes.

Tugay was the creator with a delightful chip, Cole finishing the move with a neat lob over Fabien Barthez.

United were stung, pinning Blackburn back in their own half for lengthy periods.

Paul Scholes won the game for us - he has been fantastic for us

Man Utd manager Sir Alex Ferguson

The only surprise was that Blackburn hung on until the 28th minute before conceding the inevitable equaliser.

David Beckham's cross found Scholes 10 yards out, and he controlled at the second attempt to beat Friedel.

Blackburn had a setback five minutes later when Damien Duff limped off with a recurrence of a hamstring injury. He was replaced by Keith Gillespie.

Friedel had to save brilliantly from Van Nistelrooy before Scholes delivered another blow to Blackburn four minutes before the interval.

Duff escapes Roy Keane
Duff escapes Roy Keane

Beckham released Gary Neville into wide open spaces down the right flank, and he pulled the ball back to perfection for Scholes to beat Friedel from close range.

Blackburn had never come to terms with United's attacking threat, and only the outstanding Friedel kept them in contention.

He saved twice from Giggs when United looked certain to extend their lead, then dived low to his right to deny Roy Keane.

I can't complain about that because Manchester United were superb

Blackburn manager Graeme Souness

Blackburn responded only rarely, although Cole did test Barthez with a close range header from David Thompson's free-kick on the hour.

United booked their place in Cardiff with 15 minutes to go when Van Nistelrooy was hauled down by Friedel as he rounded the Blackburn keeper.

Referee Jeff Winter resisted the temptation to show Friedel the red card, and the master Dutch stiker regained his composure to fire home an emphatic spot-kick.


Blackburn: Friedel, Neill, Todd, Taylor, McEveley, Thompson, Flitcroft, Tugay, Duff (Gillespie 34), Cole, Yorke. Subs Not Used: Short, Jansen, Ostenstad, Robinson.

Booked: Friedel, Thompson.

Man Utd: Barthez, Gary Neville, Ferdinand, Brown, Silvestre, Beckham, Veron, Keane, Giggs, Scholes (Butt 79), van Nistelrooy (Forlan 84). Subs Not Used: Phil Neville, O'Shea, Ricardo.

Attendance: 29,048.

Referee: J Winter (Cleveland).

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Five Live's Jonathan Pearce
"United always showed better movement"
Man Utd's Gary Neville
"They were difficult to break down"
Blackburn boss Graeme Souness
"They're always going to be difficult to beat"

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22 Jan 03 | Football
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