Date: 30th December 2011 at 10:08pm
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Support - or lack of: The key player in a heavy United victory?

It’s Sir Alex Ferguson’s 70th Birthday on New Years Eve, and what better way to celebrate than continue the form we’re in at the moment, with a view Rovers being the latest team to suffer a thumping at the hands of the reds.

Right now, things are fantastic. Injuries may be ripping through the side like you wouldn’t believe but we’re hitting a patch now, as we usually do around this time, to let the doubters know that we’re right here, same as we’ve ever been, without a song and dance.

The confidence of neighbours City has been high, and rightly so – but whilst they’ve been taking the media hype, and the media drama, we’ve quietly been creeping up on them and all of a sudden, here we are.  Ready for the next game, like a crouching tiger ready to pounce.

United:

Guess what?  Another injury struck us down on Boxing Day, when the dependable Johnny Evans was replaced with Ezekil Fryers against Wigan, to give United a makeshift centre back partnership of Carrick and Evra.  Thankfully, Rio Ferdinand and Phil Jones are likely to be ready for this one, whilst Chris Smalling is out with tonsillitis, and not glandular fever as the ever woeful Daily Mail printed this week.

This will mean that Michael Carrick can move back in to the centre of midfield and could partner Ryan Giggs or Ji Sung Park.

Wayne Rooney is likely to return upfront, and hatrick hero Dimitar Berbatov more than deserves to keep his place in the starting line up. The Bulgarian scored five goals in the 7-1 demolition of Blackburn last season.

Rovers:

Rovers may not be able to land any domestic trophies this season, but one bit of silverwae they are guaranteed to pick up is the “Worst Supporters of the Season for 2011/2012” award.

Manager Steve Kean had his best players sold from under him in the Summer, and wasn’t handed the funds to buy decent replacements.  As a result, Blackburn have struggled in games, and the fans have been disgruntled that they’re not winning matches.

However, their furious protests during matches has been widely criticised by fans, pundits, professionals and managers alike, and if ever you want to plot your own teams demise, you can rely on Blackburn fans for expert advice.  Their actions while play is going on affect the players so much, that they’re up against it every time they play.  By all means, protest after a game, but support your team during it.  Prime example: The recent home game against Bolton…they team went 1-0 down after only five minutes, and the jeers, the boos, the incredulous barracking began.  They were certainly a brilliant 12th man…but for Bolton, not their own team.

The Rovers team looked shocking, and with no support behind them were on eggshells until Nigel Reo-Coker planted the second of Bolton’s goals on 30 minutes.  The barracking and the boos got worse, and the portly guy with the beard who was shown on TV hurling abuse to Steve Kean from only yards away, should really have done his team a favour and gone home, stopping off at one of the chips shops near Ewood Park to help himself to a feast and cheer himself up.

The Rovers side managed to get to the half time break, get the boos out of their mind, and game out for the second half, starting pretty strongly.  For once, the Ewood Park crowd got behind their team and what a difference they made.  The team looked confident, played some better football, and hell…they even scored!  If they’d had that type of backing in the first half too, who knows what the outcome may have been?

If they did their bit while the game is on, and saved the protests until after the game, they wouldn’t have so much to worry about.  Fickle isn’t the word, these lot are on a different planet and if they go down at the end of the season, they have played a massive part in getting them there.

So – where does all that “Rovers fan-love” take me?

Well, expect the usual dross support from the Rovers travelling “faithful”, as Steve Kean comes to Old Trafford with ten first team players either ruled out or doubtful.  A squad which was already weakened by their owners in the summer, those sales are haunting them.  I’m confident that we’ll be fully in control of this game for the full 90 minutes, and Rovers will be scratching ad chasing at any loose balls, but it’ll be like treading water for them.  Obviously, I believe their fans will have a big part to play in this too.

Did you know?

  • United became the first top-flight club to win back-to-back league matches by a 5-0 scoreline since Everton in 1980.
  • We’ve won by five or more goals on four occasions this season, and are the only club to have scored in every Premier League match this campaign.

The outcome

I think I’m fairly certain in saying that we’ll come away with the points for this one, based on recent form and other influences working in our favour.  With a stronger side available than in our last game against Wigan, we can claw even more goals back on top-placed Manchester City, and my heart tells me that we could do even better against Rovers than we did last season. My head tells me not to be so silly.

Wherever you’re watching it – enjoy the game. And have a very happy new year.

Follow me on Twitter: @stevecrab