Manchester United won its record 19th English soccer championship today with a 1-1 tie at Blackburn.
Following a win over second-place Chelsea last week, United needed just to draw at Ewood Park to eclipse the mark of 18 titles it shared with Liverpool.
Wayne Rooney’s 73rd-minute penalty kick secured the tie and gave United its 12th Premier League title in the 19-year history of the league.
“Winning the Premier League is an incredible feeling,” Rooney said in an on-field interview with Sky Sports. “To get the 19 titles, the most successful English team, it’s a great feeling for us.”
When he took over as United manager in 1986, Alex Ferguson said he wanted to knock Liverpool, which had 16 championships at the time, “off their perch.” Since the Merseyside club won its 18th title in 1990, the Scotsman has led United to 12.
“If you look back 20 years, we were nowhere near Liverpool,” United midfielder Ryan Giggs, who also captured his 12th championship medal, told Sky Sports. “To overturn that deficit is a great credit to the club and players. It’s great to be in front of our nearest rivals.”
United just missed taking the lead in the fourth minute as Nani hit the crossbar with a header. Blackburn’s Christopher Samba then put the ball in the net in the 18th minute but the goal was disallowed for his foul on Nemanja Vidic.
Blackburn went in front two minutes later as Brett Emerton took a pass from Martin Olsson and put a shot pass Thomas Kuszczak, who started in the United goal in place of the resting Edwin van der Sar.
Blackburn goalkeeper Paul Robinson dived to stop Javier Hernandez’s shot and Olsson sent a volley wide, before Nani sent a shot well over the crossbar just before halftime.
Olsson almost doubled the Blackburn lead midway through the second half when his header rang off the left post. United then tied the game as Hernandez went down in the area from a challenge by Robinson.
Referee Phil Dowd didn’t immediately signal the penalty and checked with his assistant, as players from both teams surrounded them, before pointing to the spot. Rooney then stepped up and buried his kick into the left corner as Robinson went the opposite way.
“It was terrifying, the ref took a long time to give it,” Rooney said. “I just had to compose myself.”
United started the season unbeaten, but five ties in the first eight games left it eight points behind Chelsea. It took over first place after a 7-1 rout of Blackburn on Nov. 27 and would battle rival Manchester City for the top spot for the next two months.
United moved back atop the standings for good in late January and extended its unbeaten run to 24 games before a 2-1 loss at Wolverhampton on Feb. 5. The Red Devils would then increase their lead to 10 points over second-place Arsenal in April.
As Arsenal faded, defending champions Chelsea began a late-season charge. The Blues trailed United by 15 points in late February, but climbed back to within three heading into a showdown at Old Trafford on May 8. With Hernandez and Vidic scoring in the opening 23 minutes, United posted a 2-1 win that put it on the verge of the record-breaking title.
“It’s a better league this year, teams have been beating each other from the bottom to the top, which makes it more exciting for the fans,” United defender Rio Ferdinand said to Sky Sports.
Champions League Final
Giggs said he wasn’t concerned about media criticism that this United team doesn’t compare with others in the past.
“We’re champions and in the Champions League final, we’re rubbish aren’t we?” Giggs said with a smile. “It’s a pleasure to play on this team.”
United plays in the Champions League final against Spanish champions Barcelona at Wembley Stadium in London on May 28. Both teams will be trying for their fourth European Cup as Ferguson seeks to tie former Liverpool manager Bob Paisley’s record of three titles.