Grant Hanley’s 80th minute header helped Blackburn Rovers rise off the bottom of the Barclays Premier League and dealt Manchester United a major blow in the title race.
Top scorer Yakubu had earlier given Rovers a two-goal lead, before United staged a comeback, with Dimitar Berbatov, who had earlier conceded a penalty, netting twice.
But when David de Gea flapped at Morten Gamst Pedersen’s penalty, Hanley was on hand to give Steve Kean the finest win of his short managerial career.
United knew that just a point would ensure they finish the year top of the Premier League, while Rovers had ambitions of salvaging a win that would assist their plight in the bottom three.
With Sir Alex Ferguson celebrating his 70th birthday, a party atmosphere was expected at Old Trafford, but following an uncertain start by the home side, the party quickly turned flat.
Rovers had showcased their ability to hold stern at the back, while possessing a threat going forward at Anfield, and after relinquishing their half-time lead on that occasion, they were handed the opportunity to put that result right after a quarter of an hour at the Theatre of Dreams.
A long ball pumped in towards Chris Samba saw Berbatov haul the defender to the floor, allowing Yakubu to tuck beyond the returning De Gea.
Without Wayne Rooney in the matchday squad, the onus was on Nani to turn around United’s fortunes, but the best of his wayward efforts saw Mark Bunn claw the ball away.
Those expecting a second-half United onslaught were to be disappointed and just six minutes after the break Yakubu broke beyond Phil Jones to hammer past De Gea.
United replied immediately, Berbatov heading home from Rafael Da Silva’s cross-shot, before Antonio Valencia’s pull back allowed the Bulgarian to double his tally.
The home side pilled on the pressure in search a decisive third, but it was the relegation strugglers who kept the reigning champions at bay, but crucially re-took the lead with 10 minutes left.
Hanley rose highest from a Pedersen corner, but when the ball broke free, following De Gea’s error, the 20-year-old was on hand to nod home.
A lackluster United failed to muster a late charge like they so often have in the Premier League era, as Rovers snatched a crucial win in their fight to escape the drop, and hand the onus in the title race back to leaders Manchester City.
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