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Last Updated: Saturday, 22 November, 2003, 14:22 GMT
Man Utd see off Blackburn
Kleberson celebrates his crucial goal

Man Utd 2-1 Blackburn

Manchester United set the Premiership standard for title rivals Arsenal and Chelsea with a lunchtime victory over Blackburn.

But the home side made a meal of things as they let Blackburn back into the game after coasting to a 2-0 half-time lead.

Ruud van Nistelrooy's 12th goal of the season and Kleberson's first for Manchester United seemed to have set Sir Alex Ferguson's side up for an Old Trafford stroll.

But Brett Emerton's 62nd-minute strike gave Blackburn hope and caused a few flutters in the home side's defence.

After an insipid opening spell, Van Nistelrooy brought the game to life when he exchanged passes with David Bellion and beat Brad Friedel at his near post.

KEY MOMENTS
24 mins: Van Nistelrooy exchanges passes with Fortune and fires home.
38 mins:Kleberson bags his first goal for United
62 mins: Emerton latches on to Gallagher's pass before firing home

Seven minutes before half-time, Brazilian World Cup winner Kleberson celebrated his first start for United when he finished off a cutting build-up with a composed finish.

And, despite Australian midfielder Emerton's second-half strike, Graeme Souness's side had no answer as they slumped to their sixth defeat in seven Premiership outings.

Former United hero Dwight Yorke offered an early hint that Blackburn could carry a threat.

But when he sliced his shot into the United fans who once cheered him, Yorke knew it was not going to be his day.

Yorke was anonymous in the first half as United took control, though it took 24 minutes for the home side to take hold .

But when the goal came it was incisive in the extreme, Van Nistelrooy finishing off after Fortune's fine pass.

Ruud van Nistelrooy
Van Nistelrooy wheels away after hitting the opener
Fourteen minutes later, Kleberson doubled the lead as he side-footed into an empty net after Fortune had laid off a low cross from Van Nistelrooy.

After Blackburn's woeful opening, the second goal seemed to have killed the game off.

But a double half-time substitution by Rovers boss Graeme Souness - and presumably an ear-bashing to accompany the changes - brought Rovers to life.

Nils-Eric Johansson and Paul Gallagher were introduced and it was Gallagher's perfectly weighted pass that sent Emerton free to fire Rovers back into contention.

Emerton's cool finish on 62 minutes came just seconds after Roy Keane appeared to have been tripped by Vratislav Gresko in the Blackburn penalty area and was something of a turning point.

Yorke had already seen a tap-in ruled out for offside but Blackburn failed to take advantage of United's late nerves.

In fact, the home side should have finished things off when Rio Ferdinand was presented with a far-post gift, only for the England defender to blaze over the bar.


Man Utd: Howard, Gary Neville, Ferdinand, Silvestre, O'Shea, Kleberson, Keane, Phil Neville, Fortune (Giggs 85), Bellion (Ronaldo 73), van Nistelrooy (Forlan 89).
Subs Not Used: Butt, Carroll.

Blackburn: Friedel, Todd, Short, Babbel, Gresko, Emerton, Ferguson, Flitcroft (Baggio 78), Reid (Johansson 45), Jansen (Gallagher 45), Yorke.
Subs Not Used: Enckelman, Martin Taylor.

Booked: Ferguson.

Attendance: 67,748

Referee: M Halsey (Lancashire).




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