Mark Hughes hailed Ryan Nelsen and Andy Todd as one of the best defensive partnerships in the Premier League, as Rovers held Manchester United to a 0-0 draw, 15 years ago today.

Nelsen and Todd were both magnificent as Rovers managed to hold a star-studded United side to a goalless draw at Old Trafford, their sixth clean sheet in eight matches.

It meant that Rovers had shipped just four goals in the 12 games that New Zealander Nelsen had played since arriving on a free transfer in January.

Rovers had also taken a highly commendable five points out of 12 from back-to-back games against four of the top five sides.

That run began with a 1-0 win at Everton the previous month and Hughes’ side then managed to hold both Liverpool and United to 0-0 draws on their own grounds, the blot being a 1-0 home defeat to Arsenal, when Robin Van Persie became the only player to score against Rovers in the five-match run.

“I think those two are as good as anyone in the league,” said Hughes of his defensive duo.

“Defensively, we’re as good as anybody.

“We’ve just had a four-game period where no-one really expected us to get any points at all but we’ve gone up against the top teams in the league this year and conceded just one goal, so we’re delighted from that point of view.”

“We’re a difficult side to beat, we’re resolute, got a great work ethic, and unless the opposition play as well as they can then it’s going to be difficult day for them.”

Lancashire Telegraph:

Hughes’ stock was rising given his impressive return since replacing Graeme Souness in the Ewood hotseat.

He admitted Rovers rode their luck at times in a gripping first half that saw United twice hit the post, but a combination of Brad Friedel’s inspired goalkeeping and some steely defending by Todd and Nelsen ensured their side claimed a 10th clean sheet in 21 games.

“I think everyone can see we have a real determination not to get beat in every game that we take part in,” said Hughes, reflecting on another job well done.

“If a team is going to beat us then they’ll have to work extremely hard to match how hard we work.

“At times we have limitations - we know that.

“But I have to say our work ethic and the way we apply ourselves, and our determination not to get beat is on a par with any team in this league.”

Rovers might even have nicked their first league win at Old Trafford since 1962 had they been slightly more clinical in front of goal on the day.

Jon Stead passed up a couple of half chances but Hughes could hardly be critical of the 21-year-old after he turned in an admirable performance up front in his role as a lone


“Jon worked really, really hard for the team and put in a great performance,” said the Rovers boss. “Given the amount of effort he put in, I think it would be a little bit critical of me to highlight the fact he didn’t score as well.

“But he’ll be better for that performance. He’s had a difficult time this season, as everyone knows, but if he keeps performing like that from now until the end of the season then I’ll be delighted.”

Hughes felt his side needed two more wins before they could be certain of staving off the threat of relegation, and wouldn’t let minds shift to an FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal two weeks later.

Rovers: Friedel, Neill, Nelsen, Todd, Matteo, Reid, Mokoena (Emerton, 68), Thompson, Flitcroft, Pedersen (Gallagher, 78), Stead