Manchester United 2 Blackburn 3
Rovers spoil the party as Yakubu and Hanley make it unhappy 70th birthday for Ferguson
Stranded: David De Gea (right) is left helpless as Grant Hanley heads in Blackburn's winner against United
Yakubu silenced the home crowd with a penalty after Dimitar Berbatov pulled down Chris Samba and the striker grabbed his second early in the second half.
Berbatov nipped in to score just seconds later and doubled his own tally with a cool finish from Antonio Valencia's delivery.
But despite piling on the pressure, it was United who were undone as David de Gea failed to collect Morten Gamst Pedersen's corner, allowing Grant Hanley to head home the winner 10 minutes from time.
It represented Kean's best win as Blackburn manager, taking them off the foot of the table, and left Ferguson to question the wisdom of not even putting a rested Wayne Rooney on the bench.
The party atmosphere at kick-off proved to be a false guide to what followed.
In a pre-recorded interview with MUTV, Ferguson confirmed his future plans, which would make him by some distance the Premier League's oldest manager.
Big day: Sir Alex Ferguson was all smiles at the start of the game on the day of his 70th birthday
The Scot then received a rendition of 'Happy Birthday to you' from the home fans, setting the scene for the slaughter expected to follow.
Except United, injury-hit to the extent of having to name Rafael and Park Ji-sung as central midfield partners, were not up to the task.
The fluency that had carried them to eight wins from nine league games since their only defeat, that 6-1 massacre by Manchester City in October, was so obviously missing.
Nani was an obvious attacking outlet but had one of his frustrating days and neither Berbatov, Hernandez nor Danny Welbeck could plot a path through the massed ranks of Blackburn's defence.
Twenty-four hours earlier, Ferguson had confirmed an intention to hand Berbatov an extra year's contract.
He must have felt like snatching it away, when the Bulgarian followed up his Boxing Day hat-trick against Wigan by hauling Christopher Samba over in the box.
At a club as unstable as Blackburn, one of the few certainties is that from the spot, Yakubu does not miss and the Nigerian promptly sent De Gea the wrong way.
United's response was strange in that, without playing well, they started to create opportunities.
Nani was off target with a couple of efforts then the Portugal winger was denied by Rovers' stand-in keeper Mark Bunn, as was Hernandez.
At one point, Hernandez also got in the way of a goalbound effort from Phil Jones, who had recovered from illness to face his former club for the first time since his £17million move to Old Trafford.
Pilloried by his own fans immediately before Christmas, Rovers boss Kean had now seen his side take first-half leads at Liverpool and United in a staggering six-day spell.
With no Rooney to assist his team, Ferguson turned to Anderson at the break, a move that triggered a number of positional changes, the most significant of which saw Valencia shifted into an advanced position.
But, before United had a chance to see whether the tactical switches would work, they fell further behind.
Yakubu had too much strength for makeshift central defender Michael Carrick as he turned on the edge of the area, then nipped past Jones before drilling his shot through De Gea's legs.
Disastrously for Blackburn, they conceded themselves within 20 seconds of the restart as United advanced, the ball eventually finding its way to Rafael whose bouncing cross-shot was nodded home by Berbatov.
So often have Ferguson's teams recovered from such unpromising situations down the years, Kean must have felt sick.
His side started to get overwhelmed by the tide of red attacks, with Valencia to the fore.
It was the South American's burst of pace and subsequent cut-back that provided Berbatov with the opportunity to side-foot United level.
Minutes later, Bunn almost unbelievably prevented Grant Hanley from turning Berbatov's cross into his own net. He did not know much about it though, as the ball flew over off his outstretched foot.
The weight of attacks on the Blackburn goal was immense. Yet United's commitment was so great they forgot to defend, and once again the questions were raised over De Gea, who came to collect Pedersen's corner.
Instead, Hanley won the first header, then found the bottom corner with his second.
United resolve was sapped and their hopes of snatching the point that would take them top of the table disappeared when Bunn and home debutant Will Keane got in the way of Jones' injury-time effort.
Arsenal 1-0 QPR
Robin van Persie hits vital second-half winner to move Gunners back into top four
Gunners take three points with lone goal from Dutch striker enough to secure win as visitors impress but cannot get past defensive wall, while home side blow countless chances
Arsenal picked up a vital win as their Premier League rivals dropped points with a second-half Robin van Persie goal helping them defeat QPR 1-0.
In a tight affair, the Dutch striker sealed victory after Andrey Arshavin's assist allowed him to tap home, with the away side given a good account of themselves against their London rivals.
Arsene Wenger looked to tweak the team that drew against Wolves last week, with Arshavin joining the attack in place of Gervinho and Theo Walcott replacing Yossi Benayoun.
Aaron Ramsey also came into the side after appearing from the bench last time out, with Tomas Rosicky dropping to the bench, whilst for the visitors, top-scorer Heidar Helguson was replaced by Jay Bothroyd up front.
In quiet opening 10 minutes to the match, both teams kept the ball well without really threatening, until Bothroyd struck the first shot of the match from 20 yards out, forcing a save from Wojciech Szczesny low to his left.
Rangers quickly responded as Adel Taarabt' through ball was latched onto by Shaun Wright-Phillips, but Szczesny was out quickly to block his 'dinked' effort.
Arsenal's first moment of intent came through Van Persie, but his cross was saved low by Radek Cerny after some nice wing play by the striker.
After a positive opening from Neil Warnock's side, Arsenal quickly laid siege to the their goalmouth as Van Persie came close three times, with a header, a dinked effort and a half-volley all spurned, while Walcott dragged an effort across the goalmouth when he really should have done better.
The visitors were then dealt a slice of luck as referee Martin Atkinson turned down a huge penalty appeal, as Luke Young flung himself to block Laurent Koscielny's volley, with the ball ricocheting off his leg onto his outstetched arm.
The 32-year-old could consider him lucky to have gotten away unpunished, while referre Martin Atkinson came under more fire from the home support as he booked Thomas Vermaelen in a case of mistaken identity after Koscielny brought down Wright-Phillips on the right wing.
Ramsey just before half-time, but his volley from the edge of the area was headed off the line by skipper Joey Barton after Van Persie's corner, with Arsenal continually threatening in the opening 45.
The second half began with a flurry as chances fell at either end, with Alejandro Faurlin coming closest to opening the scoring for QPR, but he fluffed his shot with the goal gaping - but his missed effort was soon to be better by Walcott's miss of the match.
The winger was put through with by a fabulous ball from Ramsey as they looked to break from a QPR corner, but as he reached the area one-on-one with Cerny, the former Southampton man dragged his shot well wide.
It didn't matter too much for the Gunners however, as they took the lead with half an hour to go through Van Persie.
QPR seemed to have won a corner but a goal-kick was indicated by Atkinson, not linesman Simon Beck, and the Gunners used the opportunity to break up field, with the much-maligned Arshavin finding Van Persie in space to slot past Cerny at his near-post.
It was to be Arshavin's last - and only - moment of note as he was substituted for Gervinho soon after.
The African winger was soon involved in the action, but missed another absolute sitter for Arsenal as he passed the ball wide from in front of goal having been set up by Van Persie.
QPR were spurred on and began to attack as the game ebbed away, but looked likely to be caught on the counter-attack.
While Rangers had plenty of possession towards the end, they couldn't find a way past the Arsenal defence, with Mertesacker in particular putting in some important blocks and headers, as the Wenger's side secured the three points that sees them break back into the top four.
Chelsea 1-3 Aston Villa
Ireland, Petrov and Bent strikes stun Villas-Boas' men as Blues make it four games without a win
Alex McLeish's side produced a masterclass of counter-attacking football to cancel out Didier Drogba's opener and consign Andre Villas-Boas' men to a miserable end to 2011
Chelsea failed to win for the fourth Premier League game in a row as they slumped to a 3-1 defeat at home to Aston Villa.
Didier Drogba grabbed the opener for the Blues from the spot before Stephen Ireland bundled home to send the sides in level at half-time.
Despite the second-half introduction of Fernando Torres, the hosts could not find a breakthrough and saw Stiliyan Petrov and substitute Darren Bent's late goals secure a much-needed victory for Alex McLeish's men.
The home side made three changes to the side which drew with Fulham in their last outing at Stamford Bridge. Didier Drogba replaced the misfiring Torres as Paulo Ferreira deputised for the injured full-back Jose Bosingwa. Frank Lampard also missed out with Brazilian midfielder Ramires returning to the starting lineup.
For Alex McLeish, Bent proved fit enough to take a place on the bench as Stephen Ireland was handed a shock start with Emile Heskey still injured.
Despite pre-match discussion over the absence of Torres, it was a man whose presence in the Blues side is never in doubt who was presented with the opportunity to give them a dream start. Juan Mata collected Daniel Sturridge’s lofted pass in the box but could not escape the attentions of the Villa defence and had to settle for a corner.
That set-piece was easily repelled by the visitors and they had their own chance to break when Gabriel Agbonlahor’s cross almost found Ireland, who had pulled off his man at the edge of the box but could find the header.
Chelsea struggled to find any further fluency in the opening exchanges as the Villans stuck to their defensive task admirably and provided ample evidence that their pace on the counter would cause trouble.
Given the cagey nature of the opening 20 minutes, the breakthrough for the hosts may have felt like sweet relief for Andre Villas-Boas, especially given the fortunate nature in which it was seized.
Drogba collected the ball in the box after Ramires’ burst from midfield and shifted it into an area of little threat, only to see Richard Dunne clumsily throw out a leg and give the forward an opportunity to tumble, which he duly took.
The Ivorian subsequently stepped up and slotted a nervous spot kick down the middle, which Guzan will have been disappointed not to stop, to notch his 150th Chelsea goal and give his side lead.
The goal did little, however, to dispel Chelsea’s stuttering start and it was therefore unsurprising when the visitors hit back just five minutes later.
Charles N’Zogbia burst into the box, after being released by Ireland, who had controlled brilliantly, and the winger cut back to his provider to see him slide the ball beyond Petr Cech after it appeared that John Terry’s arm had prevented his first goalward effort.
The goal was little more than Alex McLeish’s side deserved given their attacking potency and they continued to suppress the Chelsea attack, constantly providing a threat on the break.
Despite that threat, the hosts would have been disappointed not to immediately regain the lead with 10 minutes of the half remaining as Guzan’s tame block allowed Mata to release a shot at an empty goal, which Stephen Warnock did brilliantly to slide in and clear.
It was in fact the best chance the hosts would get before half time with a Drobga free-kick driven woefully wide the only other opportunity of note before the break.
Laughing stock | Chelsea woes continue with a Stamford Bridge defeat
Though no changes were made by the hosts at half time, they started the second period undeniably brighter. A lofted Raul Meireles pass found Mata in space, but the Spaniard was left frustrated as none of his team-mates gambled on his drive across the six yard box.
At the other end, a Villa free kick evaded everyone but defender James Collins and, although the Welshman knew nothing of it, he almost diverted the ball beyond Cech into the Chelsea goal.
The Blues then received another let off as a fantastic exchange between N’Zogbia and Ireland allowed the visitors to break and release Agbonlahor one-on-one with Cech. Unfortunately for the Villans, the pacy striker could not provide the finishing touch and drove into the goalkeeper’s legs, much to the relief of the home crowd.
Chelsea’s inability to create in midfield forced Villas-Boas to look to his bench just 10 minutes into the second half, as Frank Lampard replaced Oriol Romeu. The change almost produced the opposite of its desired effect just seconds later, however, as Agbonlahor turned Terry with ease in the box but dragged his shot wide of the near post.
Mata was proving to be the hosts’ only true creative outlet on the day and he underlined this when beating two Villa defenders in the box before standing the ball up to the back post. Once again, however, no Chelsea forward could provide the fitting finish to his good work.
Torres replaced the ineffective Sturridge on the hour mark and the Spaniard almost went some way to atoning for his poor form as his fantastic drive from the edge of the box crashed off the Villa bar just seconds after his introduction.
Villa continued to provide stubborn resistance against the reinvigorated hosts and Marc Albrighton took his turn to serv a reminder of his side’s menace with a volley which tested Cech at his near post.
It was a defensive change by Chelsea which almost proved key with 15 minutes remaining as Bosingwa, who had missed out on a start due to hamstring concerns, replaced Ferreira and brought a fine save from Guzan just moments into his cameo.
With the hosts having made all three possible changes, Alex McLeish introduced his first substitute of the game, as Bent made his first team return in place of a tiring N’Zogbia whilst youngster Gary Gardner was handed his Villa debut, replacing Albrighton.
It took just minutes for substitute Bent to have an impact, with his great work in beating Terry almost garnered a penalty, only for the referee to wave away his claims and those of Petrov just moments later after another debatable tackle in the box.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of those decisions, Villa would get what they perceived as justice just seconds later as Ciaran Clark found captain Petrov in space in a disorganised Chelsea defence, and the midfielder drove home brilliantly to give his side the lead.
Bizarrely, that was to be the Bulgarian’s final contribution, as he appeared to pick up an injury in the celebration, and he was replaced by Barry Bannan shortly after.
It appeared the cool head of an experienced midfielder would be a big miss as Villa needed to hold out against their illustrious opponents but what followed moments later dismissed the need for a backs-to-the-wall performance.
Ireland, who had proved brilliant throughout his return to the first team, intercepted Terry’s loose pass across defence to find himself through on goal and he unselfishly passed to the supporting Bent, who forced the ball past Cech to seal the points for the visitors.
That goal was to provide sufficient breathing space for Villa and ensured they consigned Chelsea to a miserable end to 2011.
Well everyone, I hope you ALL have enjoyed the articles I've been placing here.
This was the last one for 2011!!
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I WISH YOU ALL A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
See you in 2012.