By Associated Press - Saturday, December 31, 2011

MANCHESTER, England — Blackburn pulled off the biggest surprise of the Premier League season, defeating Manchester United 3-2 at Old Trafford on Saturday to spoil Alex Ferguson’s 70th birthday.

United erased a 2-0 deficit on two second-half goals by Dimitar Berbatov inside the penalty area. But Grant Hanley scored the winner on a header off a corner kick in the 80th minute, capitalizing on a mistake by goalkeeper David de Gea for his first career goal for Blackburn.

“It’s great to win at a place like this,” said Blackburn manager Steve Kean, who has faced widespread fan protests after a poor start to the season. “We’re desperate for wins and, with such a young side, this can be a real springboard to go and kick on.”

The loss by the defending champions prevented United from ending 2011 in first place. Manchester City can go three points in front by winning at Sunderland on Sunday.

In other games, third-place Tottenham slipped up as well, drawing 1-1 at Swansea to go six points behind United. Arsenal downed Queens Park Rangers 1-0 and Chelsea lost to Aston Villa 3-1.

“This is coming to the crucial time of the season,” said Ferguson, who earlier marked his birthday by pledging to stay in his job for at least another three years. “We know we can improve on today’s performance.”

Ayegbeni Yakubu scored the first two goals for Blackburn — a first-half penalty kick and a low shot past De Gea in the 51st minute.

Blackburn was coming off a 1-1 draw at Liverpool on Monday, and Kean hopes the calls for his dismissal will finally stop.

“The owners are behind me and the players are behind me,” Kean said. “Now, I’d like to think there could be a truce between me and the fans.”

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