United travelled to Bloomfield Road for their highly anticipated rearranged game against Blackpool, the first of their two games in hand over rivals Manchester City. Blackpool’s promotion to the premier league has become somewhat miraculous, as they continue to defy those who condemned them to relegation, currently sitting 6 points above the drop zone. United’s away form however has been anything but miraculous, winning only twice on the road this season, and giving a confident Blackpool team hope of springing the shock of the season. The game had all the makings of a classic, with Blackpool’s willingness to attack, and United’s devastating ability to break, goals were almost a formality.
Ferguson has often been criticised this season for going 433 away from home, as it restricts our best players such as Rooney and Berbatov linking up together and flourishing as we know they can. This was painfully apparent in the first 45 minutes, as Blackpool proceeded to run United ragged, with Charlie Adam their talismanic midfielder running the game with his superb range of passing. It was therefore no surprise when on 15 minutes, Adam’s in swinging corner was nodded home by United old boy Craig Cathcart to give the hosts the lead. A United rebuttal didn’t appear to be forthcoming, as Blackpool proceded to out fight and out play United in all areas of the pitch, leaving Rooney and Berbatov mere bystanders up front. United again were unravelled from a corner on 43 minutes, as Adam’s inswinger was flicked on at the front post to DJ Campbell who nodded in to send the Blooomfield road crowd into delirium.
As a shellschocked United trudged off at half time, it felt as though our iron grip on the Premier League title race was slipping from our fingers, only a miraculous comeback would prevent United from losing their unbeaten record. Ferguson did not hesitate to play his ace at half time, in the form of Ryan Giggs allowing Rooney and Berbatov to link up upfront as they have done so successfully this season. Giggs’s introduction visibly lifted the travelling United support, and the team who began to test the Blackpool back four and play with the urgency that was severely lacking in the first 45 minutes. Ultimately however, it was the introduction of Javier Hernandez on 66 minutes which saw the beginning of a famous and pivotal United comeback.
It took until 72 minutes, but finally, after a brilliant reverse pass from Nani and low cross from Fletcher, Berbatov broke Blackpool’s resistance and gave United hope. Fergie’s men never looked back, and in true United fashion, the equaliser followed 3 minutes later with Ryan Giggs typically the architect, after a sumptuous first touch and lofted pass to Hernandez who was left with the simple task to slot past Kingston. The United juggernaught was now at full steam, and Blackpool became nervous on the ball, whereas in the first half they had been precise and confident. With the clock ticking down towards full time, Paul Scholes exploited a ragged Blackpool defence with a superb ball over the top to Berbatov, who bore down on goal, and hammered a left footed shot past the helpless Kinston. The comeback was complete, and ecstasy ensued for the travelling reds. Despite ten minutes of stoppage time, United could not be caught and closed out what could prove to be a crucial three points come the end of the season.
Although most United fans would have rather things have been a little more straightforward, there can be no doubting the massive psychological lift the team will gain from winning from such an impossible position. Furthermore, our title rivals who were rubbing their hands at half time, now stare at a 5 point lead at the top of the table between them and us. This may not be the best United team under Ferguson, but they must be credited for their character and will to win this season which see’s us remain unbeaten. Whatever the outcome of the premier league title race, one thing is for sure, I will always remember last night as one of my favourite Manchester United moments ever.
United travel to Southampton on saturday for the second of their seaside away days in the 4th round of the FA cup.