A historic rivalry recommences in Lancashire on Sunday, as two former Premier League winners – Blackburn Rovers and Manchester United – do battle for the first time since 2012, in the Emirates FA Cup Fifth Round.
These two have played out some truly memorable games over the years. United secured their record-breaking 19th league title at Ewood Park in 2011, while Rovers’ surprise foray into the top six in 2006 included an unforgettable 4-3 win over the Red Devils here. And that’s just in recent history…
But today the Ladbrokes News team are looking at some of the biggest names who have crossed this divide over the years, and deciding who got the better from them. So, were these five Rovers legends or United aces?
David May (Blackburn: 1988-94 / Man United: 1994-2003)
The most iconic image of ‘Maysie’’s career may have come in the celebrations following the Champions League final of 1999, but in truth, he was something of a bit-part player for the Red Devils, following six years as a key cog in the Rovers backline.
While he left just before Rovers’ Premier League triumph in 1995, he was arguably their most reliable and robust performer in a side transformed from second-tier also-rans to recording back-to-back top-four finishes in the Prem.
A good addition to the United squad by Sir Alex Ferguson, May grew creatively at Old Trafford, chipping in with some vital goals. But he wasn’t nearly as important, or as rock-solid a player as in his Ewood Park days.
Verdict: Blackburn: 8/10 – Man United: 6/10
Henning Berg (Blackburn: 1993-97, 2000-03 / Man United: 1997-2000)
One of an elite group of players to win the Premier League with two different clubs, Norwegian international Berg had a similar trajectory to May – brilliant at Blackburn and good but unspectacular at Old Trafford.
A versatile and vital part of Kenny Dalglish’s title-winning crop, the man signed from Lillestrom missed just one game of the glorious 1994-95 campaign, putting in one top-class display after another.
He made the short journey down the M61 in 1997, and certainly didn’t look out of place in an excellent United side. But he never quite recaptured his form of old, returning to the Blue and Whites for a decent spell three years on. More recently, he spent 57 days in the Ewood Park hotseat. But the less said about that, the better…
Verdict: Blackburn: 9/10 – Man United: 7/10
Andy Cole (Man United: 1995-2002 / Blackburn: 2001-2004)
‘He gets the ball, he scores a goal, Andy, Andy Cole’ were the words ringing around Old Trafford during the peak years of Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign, and the man himself certainly fuelled those chants.
A terrific goalscorer, the Nottingham native hit over 20 goals in three successive seasons between 1997 and 2000, including some unforgettable strikes.
Cole netted in the 3-2 Champions League semi-final triumph at Juventus in 1999, scored against Tottenham to clinch the league title that season – oh, and netted the equaliser in an FA Cup semi against Chelsea.
He joined Blackburn in 2001, and though he netted a more-than-respectable 37 goals in 100 games in all competitions, he never again hit the heights he’d enjoyed at Newcastle United or under Fergie at Old Trafford.
Verdict: Man United: 10/10 – Blackburn: 8/10
Dwight Yorke (Man United: 1998-2002 / Blackburn: 2002-2004)
Cole’s strike partner at Old Trafford, the pair teamed up again at Ewood Park under Graeme Souness. But it’s rightly the pair’s telepathic understanding at the Theatre of Dreams which the Trinidadian international is most fondly remembered for.
Yorke netted an incredible 52 goals in 96 league games for the Red Devils, including a memorable hat-trick against Arsenal in a 6-1 demolition of Arsene Wenger’s Gunners – as well as an incredible eight goals in the victorious Champions League campaign of 1998-99.
He struggled to come close to that form at Rovers, netting just 17 goals in 74 games in all competitions, before truly losing his finishing finesse in the final years of his career.
Verdict: Man United: 9/10 – Blackburn: 6/10
Phil Jones (Blackburn: 2009-2011 / Man United: 2011-Present)
Despite having been compared to the late, great Duncan Edwards by Fergie and Sir Bobby Charlton, it hadn’t quite happened for the 24-year-old Ewood Park prodigy until this season.
He showed promise at Blackburn, but didn’t really hang around for long enough to make a big impact – while he was still raw and error prone, despite showing real strength, combativeness and aerial ability.
It had been much the same at Old Trafford, with a succession of managers failing to mould Jones into the commanding centre-back Ferguson had always predicted. But finally, it seems that Jose Mourinho’s defensive partnership of Jones and Marcos Rojo is bringing the best out of the Preston native. Watch this space…
Verdict: Blackburn: 6/10 – Man United: 7/10
Well, there we have it. A narrow 3-2 victory for the Red Devils. But can they triumph on the road, as these two do battle for the first time in almost four years.
Get all the latest Emirates FA Cup here.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing