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Manchester United Opens Five-Point League Lead With Late Goals

Antonio Valencia of Manchester United
Antonio Valencia of Manchester United celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Premier League match between Blackburn Rovers and Manchester United at Ewood Park in Blackburn. Photographer: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Manchester United scored twice in the last nine minutes to win 2-0 at Blackburn and extend its Premier League soccer lead to five points over Manchester City with seven games remaining.

Antonio Valencia opened the scoring in the 81st minute at Ewood Park last night with a right-foot shot before setting up substitute Ashley Young for the second goal five minutes later.

With United scheduled to host 17th-place Queens Park Rangers on April 8, the Red Devils’ advantage could be as much as eight points before City kicks off at third-place Arsenal later that day. United visits City on April 30 in the third-to-last round of games.

“My experience of these situations is that it doesn’t matter what the points total is at the moment,” United manager Alex Ferguson told Sky Sports. “What is really important is trying to win Sunday’s game.”

United, seeking a record-extending 20th English title, has taken 31 points from a possible 33 since back-to-back losses to Blackburn and Newcastle at the turn of the year and tops the standings with 76 points. Blackburn’s sixth defeat in 12 league games in 2012 drops it into the three-team relegation zone in 18th place with 28 points.

United goalkeeper David De Gea, whose mistake allowed Blackburn to secure a 3-2 win at Old Trafford on Dec. 31, made first-half saves from Junior Hoilett, Marcus Olsson and Grant Hanley and blocked a free kick from Morten Gamst Pedersen in the second half.

‘Growing in Stature’

“David kept us in the game,” Ferguson said after De Gea’s fourth straight league shutout. “He made three great first-half saves. He’s growing in stature and confidence.”

With United having had two thirds of the possession, Valencia broke the deadlock with nine minutes remaining when he cut in from the right and fired a swerving shot past Blackburn goalkeeper Paul Robinson from an acute angle.

Five minutes later, the Ecuadorian winger carried the ball close to the Blackburn penalty area before passing to Young, who turned and hit a right-foot shot into the corner past Robinson’s dive to seal United’s seventh straight league win.

“It was a massive win for us,” Young told Sky Sports. “It’s a crucial time in the season. For us to come here and get three points was great. We knew it was going to be a tough game.”

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