Manchester United were crowned Premier League champions after a Wayne Rooney penalty earned them the point they needed in a 1-1 draw away to Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park in Blackburn yesterday.
The result meant Sir Alex Ferguson’s side clinched a record 19th English title, going one in front of archrivals Liverpool, but it wasn’t achieved without controversy along the way.
It looked as though the Red Devils’ party would have to be put on hold for a while longer as they struggled to break down a Blackburn side, who took a first-half lead through Brett Emerton.
However, despite being below-par, and riding their luck, United sealed the draw they required in the 73rd minute.
Javier Hernandez was tripped by Blackburn goalkeeper Paul Robinson and, after much deliberation, referee Phil Dowd pointed to the penalty spot following consultation with linesman Andy Halliday.
Rooney sent Robinson the wrong way as United reclaimed the title back off Chelsea in the penultimate game of the season to give Ferguson his 12th title as manager since arriving at Old Trafford 25 years ago.
United, given the freedom of Ewood Park at times, saw Nani nearly give them the lead inside four minutes.
Rooney, in a role-reversal, almost turned creator as he made room to deliver a cross that saw the Portuguese winger head against the crossbar from barely six yards out.
United though were given a warning when Chris Samba blazed over the top after good work from Junior Hoilett.
It was a reminder that Blackburn, who had plenty to play for themselves as they look to stave off relegation, weren’t ready to just roll over.
And after United goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak was fortunate to escape conceding following a mix-up with Michael Carrick, the visitors did fall behind in the 20th minute against the run of play.
Further indecision from Kuszczak, standing in for the rested Edwin van der Sar, saw Martin Olsson cross for Emerton to sweep home unmarked at the far post.
It was the Australian’s first goal of this year and he couldn’t have scored a more dramatic one if he had tried.
The 7,000 United fans behind the goal were stunned into silence and the visitors did appear rattled.
It took them a while to recover from the setback of falling behind. So much so that the next time they threatened was not until in the 35th minute as Robinson had to be alert to keep out Hernandez’s low shot.
However, Blackburn, happy to put men behind the ball, remained a threat on the counter-attack with Olsson firing wide after meeting Michel Salgado’s deep cross moments later.
A last-ditch block, which summed up the home side, denied veteran Ryan Giggs, also winning his 12th title, a certain leveler on the hour mark.
However, Blackburn missed a golden chance in the 65th minute to wrap this game up.
Emerton broke free and his cross saw Olsson rise above Antonio Valencia only for the header to bounce back off the post.
It proved crucial as United went up the other end to score haul themselves level and secure the title.