Tag Blackpool

Tag Blackpool

Party begins as Fergie leaves plenty in reserve

May 21, 2011 Tags: , Matches 54 comments

Sir Alex Ferguson will defy the Premier League and Blackpool’s relegation rivals to put Manchester United’s interests first as the Reds close out the domestic season on Sunday. With the Champions League final less than a week away, Ferguson will field a side of fringe players against Ian Holloway’s relegation-threatened side, despite the threat of a Premier League fine.

It’s a decision for which Ferguson has few apologies with Barcelona able to field reserve sides in the club’s final three La Liga outings. But with up to nine full internationals in the side, Ferguson expects his men to beat Blackpool and end any potential argument with the Premier League over fielding a weakened side.

Ferguson has previously fielded experimental sides in games crucial to relegation-threatened sides, including United’s 1-0 loss to West Ham United at Old Trafford in 2007 and the Reds’ narrow victory over Hull City in 2009.

“Obviously everybody expects me to leave players out and that will be the case,” Ferguson said on Friday.

“I have to think about next week, I have to juggle the balls and make sure I get the right mix and keep the right energies for Barcelona. There are players who need a game anyway. Darren Fletcher, Paul Scholes and Anderson will all play. So will Berbatov, Evra and Van der Sar.

“We’ll do our fairest to make sure there’s no criticism of the club. The only thing you could be criticised for is if you lose a game and it affects other teams. That’s when you should be put under scrutiny for the team you picked.

“Against Hull [in 2009] we played all the young players and we won 1-0, so there was no reason to criticise the selection on that occasion. This time it will be the same again. We have to make sure we win.”

Whatever the team selection, or indeed final result, United’s players will pick up the Premier League trophy after the game. It will provoke a party that is saddened only by retirements of Red legends. While Edwin van der Sar will play his last ever match at Old Trafford there is an increasing belief that Paul Scholes will also hang up his boots. Although Ferguson confirmed a new contract has been put to the 36-year-old midfielder, the player’s reticence is widely understood at Old Trafford.

Two of Scholes’ successors, Anderson and Darron Gibson, may play in central midfield, although Darren Fletcher is also set to start on the long road towards full fitness. The Scot is an outside bet for the Champions League final, although with barely 90 minutes reserve football behind him after two months out with a mystery virus Fletcher’s role is more likely to be consigned to the United bench.

Manchester United v Blackpool, 22 May 2011Meanwhile, Ferguson will select van der Sar, with the 40-year-old Dutchman having missed United’s draw with Blackburn Rovers last weekend. The ‘keeper has just two matches to play before bringing down the curtain on a wonderful career that has taken him from Ajax to United, via Juventus and Fulham.

“He has been fantastic. Absolutely sensational,” added Ferguson.

“Edwin’s professionalism and dedication have been fabulous. A goalkeeper’s training is completely different from an outfield player. It involves diving about the goalmouth all the time, saving shots and blocks. It is hard to imagine a normal person being able to do that when they were over 40. But he is special. He has something inside him.

“Some people have a certain quality that involves them needing to be a winner all the time. That is what Edwin has been. He has had a great career. He has won four titles with us, Wembley will be his fifth European Cup final and he has more caps than anyone else in Holland. It has been a fantastic career and he is going out at the very top.”

Ahead of van der Sar, Ferguson is likely to field a largely second-string back-four, although Patrice Evra may play after missing two matches with a hamstring problem. Wes Brown, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans will probably make up the defensive unit.

Meanwhile, both Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernández will sit out United’s final Premier League game of the season, affording top goalscorer Dimitar Berbatov a rare start. The Bulgarian is level with former Red Carlos Tevez in the Premier League scoring charts but has rarely started since Hernández’ emergence in the past three months.

“Javier Hernandez has made it difficult for me to put Dimitar above him,” Ferguson added.

“His performance levels, goals, freshness and pace are fantastic. Dimitar understands that. He never complains. He will play on Sunday and hopefully he will be the top goalscorer.”

Blackpool can win, draw or lose and still be relegated depending on other teams’ results and, perhaps understandably, Holloway has few concerns with United fielding a second-string side. The Blackpool manager had threatened to resign after the Premier League fined his side £25,000 for making 10 changes against Aston Villa earlier this season.

Relegation rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers and Blackburn face each other in the Midlands, Birmingham City face Tottenham Hotspur in London and Wigan Athletic go to Stoke City,

“I believe we can do it, whoever they [United] put out,” said Holloway.

“Maybe the main man up there has written a story that would probably beat Cinderella. All that matters is the dignity, the pride we’ve showed, getting back on track. That’s four games unbeaten, and anyone who’s seen the last four games can tell that Blackpool are back and looking like we did at the start of the season. That was really important to us.

“Blow me down with this fairytale we’re all on, this story that has been unfolding for the last two years. We’ve got to go to Manchester United and probably get a win, and that might not even be enough. I believe it will be, though, because Wolves are at home to Blackburn.”

The Blackpool manager has a full squad from which to choose and may go with the side that beat Bolton Wanderers last weekend.

Meanwhile, for United the party can begin in earnest, even though many of the players who brought a 19th domestic title to Old Trafford will sit out the game. For two – Scholes and van der Sar – it may well be a sad farewell.

Match Facts
Premier League. Old Trafford, Manchester. 22 May 2011, 4pm.

Teams
United – 442 – van der Sar; Brown, Evans, Smalling, Evra; Obertan, Anderson, Fletcher, Nani; Berbatov, Owen. Subs from: Kuzsazck, Rafael da Silva, Gibson, O’Shea, Fabio da Silva, Ferdinand, Vidic, OShea, Valencia, Carrick, Giggs, Park, Rooney, Hernandez.

Blackpool – 442 – Gilks; Crainey, Eardley, Evatt, Baptiste; Southern, Vaughan, Adam, Puncheon; Taylor-Fletcher, Campbell
Subs from: Cathcart, Beattie, Ormerod, Kingson, Cathcart, Phillips, Reid, Harewood, Ormerod, Beattie.

Officials
Referee: Mike Dean
Assistant referees: Peter Kirkup & Dean Mohareb
Fourth official: Mike Jones

Form
United – WWLWWD
Blackpool – LLDDDW

Tangerine dream brings out best and worst in Reds

January 26, 2011 Tags: , Matches 23 comments

Manchester United produced a stunning second half comeback to secure a win at Blackpool last night and move five points clear at the head of the Premier League table. Coming from two behind to win with three second half goals, the seaside trip demonstrated the very best in United’s sheer determination to win.

Dimitar Berbatov scored twice and substitute Javier Hernández another in the final 18 minutes of a pulsating fixture. But three valuable points cannot obscure one of the most disorganised performances from the Reds this season in a disastrous first half at Bloomfield Road.

Indeed, Sir Alex Ferguson is entitled to feel both proud and highly concerned about his side’s performance against the newly promoted Tangerines. Second best during the first 45, United could well have been out of the tie before referee Peter Walton blew for half-time.

Yet, with Wayne Rooney unceremoniously hauled off by Ferguson with 25 minutes to go United produced some thrilling football to take the points in a game that largely mirrored the Reds’ inconsistent season.

“I know the game’s never done in situations like today,” Ferguson told ESPN, who focused on the positives to come out of United’s performance.

“You know at some point we’re going to do something. You’ll get games like tonight. Maybe sometimes we won’t come back but we’ll always try to come back.

“In the first half we were battered. We couldn’t handle Charlie Adam. We were terrible. I don’t know the reason for the first half. We were all over the place. Maybe we were too confident.

“We changed at half-time, Ryan Giggs made a tremendous difference. We started to penetrate and I think we were deserved winners in the end.”

Over confidence perhaps but the United manager must surely take some blame for the disjointed nature of United’s performance during the first half. Deploying the recalled Darron Gibson, alongside Paul Scholes and Darren Fletcher in a three-man midfield, proved a near disastrous selection. And with Rooney wide left, United struggled to defend with any shape, let alone attack with purpose.

For all United’s superstars it was want-away Scot Charlie Adam that dominated the opening period. The former Rangers midfielder was at the heart of a vibrant attacking performance from Ian Holloway’s side, which was ahead inside 15 minutes. Adam’s set-piece delivery allowed former Red Craig Cathcart to lose his marker and head past ‘keeper Edwin van der Sar.

Further goals nearly followed in quick succession, with captain Nemanja Vidic almost putting into his own net before Elliot Grandin fired over from 10 yards out. The midfielder should have done much better.

Then Van der Sar superbly saved David Vaughan’s shot just before the break only for DJ Campbell to head home Adam’s subsequent corner. The two goal lead was everything Blackpool deserved for a superb performance.

If United was lethargic, complacent and casual, the hosts were everthing that is good about Holloway’s management.  Indeed, if Adam was the star, United could boast only Gibson, whose time at the club has brought little in the way of consistency save for regular mediocrity.

Yet if Ferguson was culpable for his side’s selection and tactics the manager also gained much credit for United’s turnaround. Swapping veteran Ryan Giggs for Gibson at half time brought at immediate sense of endeavor and urgency. Replacing the woeful Rooney with Hernández effectively won United the game.

United went close from Scholes and then Nani before two goals inside five second half minutes turned the game around in the Reds’ favour. First Berbatov turned in Fletcher’s centre from close range with 20 minutes to go, then with Blackpool barely regrouped Hernández superbly struck from Giggs’ through-ball. If the Mexican cannot gain a regular first team birth on this evidence it is an injustice.

If all the momentum was now with the visitors not once did Blackpool cave in, with Holloway’s side content to push men forward to very last. It proved the hosts’ undoing though as Berbatov scored the winner with two minutes to go. The Bulgarian lashed home past Richard Kingson from Scholes’ pass to earn a seemingly unlikely win.

Ferguson reserved praise for his goalscorers, although in the privacy of the dressing room United’s players must surely be in no doubt how close they came to a first defeat of the Premier League season.

“His [Hernández’] pace and timing of the runs is fantastic. He’s so good at that. He could have scored four goals. He’s made a tremendous impact.

“[Berbatov is] having a great season. He has great talent. The third goal, the composure, I was screaming for him to square it to Chicharito but, no, he has the confidence and ability to do what he did.”

Indeed, the Bulgarian claimed that his team was always confident of victory. Empty words perhaps but a sign that Ferguson’s drive is deeply ingrained even on the sometimes lethargic forward.

“We’re always confident that if we can score one we can score more and that was the case today. We fight like a team. In the second half we showed spirit and we won,” said the striker, who has now scored 19 times in an increasing fruitful season

”You come here, it’s not a friendly ground. The pitch is not as ours back home at Old Trafford. ‘Blackpool played a very good game and scored goals, they could easily have scored more in the first half.

”In the end it was the team spirit that won the game.”

The systemic problems in United’s squad aside, it is that same team spirit that may just bring a 19th Premier League title. But as so often this season, United surely must perform better than this when key matches come round in the Spring.

Match Facts
Blackpool – 433 – Kingson; Eardley, Evatt, Baptiste, Cathcart; Vaughan, Grandin, Adam; Taylor-Fletcher (Harewood 74), Varney (Phillips 68), Campbell.

United – 433 – Van der Sar; Rafael (Anderson 80), Smalling, Vidic, Evra; Scholes, Fletcher, Gibson (Giggs 46); Nani, Berbatov, Rooney (Hernandez 66).

Attendance – 15,574
Man of the Match – Berbatov

Possession: Blackpool 48% – 52% United
Attempts: 6 – 17
On Target: 2 – 4
Corners:6 – 8
Fouls: 11 – 10

Under Blackpool’s lights

January 24, 2011 Tags: , Matches 325 comments

Sir Alex Ferguson’s side faces an unpredictable trip north to Blackpool on Tuesday night, with Ian Holloway’s side notoriously durable opponents. Facing a backlog of fixtures, Holloway’s newly promoted side takes on one of England’s heavyweights at Bloomfield Road, with Manchester United seeking a five point lead in the Premier League.

Conforming to the cliché that there are no easy fixtures in the Premier League – despite Roberto Martinez’ best efforts over at the DW – the Tangerines are a resolute bunch, playing an attacking 4-3-3 system where the erratic finishing of Dudley Campbell is nevertheless imperative. The 29-year-old former Birmingham City striker’s tally of seven goals this season has largely repaid the club record £1.25 million fee.

Indeed, Holloway has done a fine job of turning what many thought of as Championship level players into Premier League survivors. In demand Scot Charlie Adam has starred but teammate David Vaughan is also has a player with a terrific range of passing. Across the board under-rated players have excelled under Holloway’s management, with Luke Varney integral to the side alongside Vaughan, Adam and Campbell.

Ferguson has taken stock of Blackpool’s remarkable rise, in which he hailed Holloway’s influence on the seasiders.

“No doubt the manager of the year so far is Ian Holloway,” said Ferguson.

“They’ve been a breath of fresh air – they’ve been positive and lit up the game… they are throwing four or five players forward into the box to get on the end of crosses all the time. They are really having a go and saying if we’re going to fail, let’s fail gloriously.”

The form book says Blackpool has won just one of its last six just as United hits top gear, but as Avram Grant can testify, in football anything is possible. It’s a fact of which Ferguson and his multi-millionaire players will no doubt be wary, especially given United’s nerve-racking performances away from home this season.

Ferguson will be tempted to rest his leading stars for the short trip to Blackpool but whoever the opponent the home side guarantees huge endeavor. It’s a fact illustrated by Manchester City’s recent fixtures against Holloway’s side. At Bloomfield Road it required David Silva’s ‘world class’ goal to beat the home side, while the return fixture was a tough 1-0 win for City.

Still, Ferguson may be tempted to rest Michael Carrick, Rio Ferdinand, Ryan Giggs and Patrice Evra, with each suffering injuries recently. Rafael da Silva returns after suspension but brother Fabio could come into the side or John O’Shea retain his place in any case. Meanwhile, Gabriel Obertan, Darron Gibson and Chris Smalling could all feature at some stage.

Chalkboard v BlackpoolHowever, with an FA Cup tie against League One Southampton to come next weekend Ferguson is under no pressure to make wholesale changes, with the Reds chasing a 27th unbeaten league game. It could be a high scoring fixture too – Blackpool has hit the net in every home fixture since Derby County visited in August 2009.

Meanwhile, Holloway’s preparations for the game have been hit by Adam’s transfer request after Liverpool submitted a £4 million bid over the weekend. The angry Blackpool manager hit out at Liverpool Director of Football Damien Comolli’s approach for the Blackpool captain.

“[Liverpool] have to come up with the right amount of money,” said Holloway, who confirmed that Adam will play against United tomorrow night.

“I don’t want to stand in his way, but they have to put up or shut up. [Comolli] ummed and aahed and apparently did not make much sense.

“Charlie loves this club and just because he puts a transfer request in doesn’t change that.”

Holloway must also face the leaders without Chris Basham, David Carney, Stephen Crainey, Billy Clarke, Matt Gilks and Malaury Martin. Even without the absentees it’s a daunting prospect for Holloway’s men, who have not hosted United for 36 years or beaten the Reds since 1963.

It’s a record few expect the Tangerines to improve on tomorrow night.

Opposition
Blackpool – 433 – Kingson; Baptiste, Evatt, Cathcart, Eardley; Vaughan, Grandin, Adam; Taylor-Fletcher, Varney, Campbell. Subs from: Rachubka, Southern, Sylvestre, Harewood, Ormerod, Euell, Phillips.

United
United – 442 – van der Sar; Rafael da Silva, Vidic, Smalling, O’Shea; Nani, Fletcher, Anderson, Obertan; Rooney, Berbatov. Subs from: Kuzszazk, Amos, Evans, Fabio da Silva, Brown, Carrick, Gibson, Owen, Bébé, Obertan, Hernández, , Evra, Ferdinand, Giggs.

Officials
Referee: Peter Walton
Assistant referees: Andy Newbold & Adam Watts
Fourth official: Mark Clattenburg

Form
Blackpool – LLLWLL
United – WDWWWW