New Year's Eve was supposed to be all about the Glaswegian manager who has lasted 25 years, not the one the Blackburn fans have been trying to get rid of all season and would be unhappy to see last another 25 days.
Yet, coupled with the result at Anfield on Boxing Day, this thoroughly impressive win suggests the Ewood Park barrackers have been picking on the wrong target. Blackburn may be badly run, by people with little experience of football. The owners may be being badly advised and may not have sufficient funds to invest in the club. But Rovers are not being badly managed. There has never been any indication all season that the players are anything but fully behind Steve Kean and there are plenty of managers in the Premier League who have yet to supervise a win at Old Trafford as complete as this. Sam Allardyce, for instance, brought Blackburn here last season and lost 7–1.
Rovers were never behind in the game and led 2-0. "It was a great performance and a great day for the club," the double goalscorer Yakubu Ayegbeni said. "We have a lot of injuries but we all fought as a team. This result is a great credit to the manager and to the players. The manager in particular has been under a lot of pressure this season, but to come to Old Trafford and win like this shows just how much the players are behind him."
Kean in turn spoke of how he never doubted the players' ability to turn results around and revealed how Blackburn were bringing the best out of Yakubu, a striker whose work-rate has been questioned at previous clubs. "It's like the fans keep singing," Kean said. "If you give Yakubu the service he'll score you the goals. We are desperate to keep him fit and on the pitch, but I think he is in as good a physical condition now as he has ever been. We don't ask him to work the whole pitch, we don't ask him to run the channels, just play the width of the box and that seems to work. He can certainly finish and as long as we are scoring goals we can give ourselves a chance."
Like Sir Alex Ferguson, Kean thought there was going to be only one winner when United got back to 2-2, only to be surprised by his own players' energy and drive. "That's the good thing about young players, I suppose," he said. "I was beginning to think a 2-2 draw would at least be a useful point, but Adam Henley and Grant Hanley were still full of running and keen to get forward. That's how we got the winner and it's remarkable to consider that Henley was only playing the second full game of his career. When you consider the age and experience of our side this has got to be one of my best days as a manager, but it's not about me. I'm under no illusions that even this result will bring the fans round, but results are what we need. Now we need to make sure the results and points keep coming."