BLACKPOOL
v
MANCHESTER UNITED

Bloomfield Road, Blackpool
January 26, 2011, 1:30 AM IST [ESPN]

Manchester United travel to Blackpool to play their much talked about ‘game in hand’. This game was scheduled to take place in December,but was postponed due to frosty weather in England. Blackpool was criticized a lot for lacking undersurface heating; however, Sir Alex has come out in their defence, and in turn criticized Fulham’s inadequate changing rooms. The United manager would very well know the importance of the game, as its one thing to have a game in hand, and a totally different to win it and have points on board. The last time these two sides met was in 1974/75 season in the second tier of English football, where United won both home and away.

Blackpool come into the game after a disappointing home defeat at the hands of injury plagued Sunderland. The Tangerines are slipping fast after their great start to the season, and are enduring their worst run of form, having lost four of the last five league games. The problems doesn’t end here for manager Ian Holloway, as star midfielder Charlie Adam has handed in a transfer request amidst interest from other clubs including Liverpool.

In Red Hot form

Manchester United, on the other hand, are still unbeaten in the league; they are high on confidence, after thrashing a sorry Birmingham side 5-0 in their last match at Old Trafford. However, despite being top of the league, their away form has been poor to say the least, with only two wins on road so far this season. This game could also be very difficult for the Red Devils, as the league newcomers have already caused a few upsets this season, including a double over Liverpool. A victory in this game could be precious for United, as it will take them five points clear with fifteen games to go.

Team News and Tactical Brief

Blackpool

Holloway has confirmed that Charlie Adam will definitely take part in the game despite submitting a transfer request, which is certainly good news for the home side. However, the fitness of top scorer DJ Campbell is still a concern, as the striker missed the last game as well due to illness. There are other injury doubts as well – they include defender Crainey and goalkeeper Kingson. Carney is on international duty while Basham, Clarke and Martin are all missing through various injuries.

Rachubka is expected to start in goal in place of the injured goalkeeper Richard Kingson. Holloway has so far set out his team to play attractive, free flowing and passing football, which at times have backfired. However, the manager is expected to go the same way, deploying two strikers up-front. Harewood could find a place in the starting line-up alongside Luke Varney, if DJ Campbell is unable to regain fitness before the game. Charlie Adam will pull the strings from midfield, with able support from David Vaughan.

Football Fans Know Better

Manchester United

Sir Alex has a couple of injury problems going into the game. Rio Ferdinand is still a doubt after missing the last game with a groin injury, while Michael Carrick is also certain to miss the game due to the knock suffered against Birmingham, which forced him to be replaced before half time. However, Rafael is available again after serving his one match ban in the previous game. Park Ji Sung is on international duty for Korea, while Antonio Valencia is on his road to recovery, which should see him return by February end. Owen Hargreaves is still out injured.

Paul Scholes should return to the starting line-up after missing the last couple of months due to injury. The Ginger Prince has been on the bench for the last two games, but was not brought on for different reasons. Sir Alex was about to bring him on at White Hart Lane before Rafael was red carded, forcing the manager to change his tactics; in the last game, he was not required to come on, with United killing off Birmingham early in the game. However, it has given Scholes more time to recover, including being involved in a reserve game against Bury.

Scholes is likely to be joined by Anderson in midfield, who had a good game against Birmingham on Saturday. Ryan Giggs has been a regular starter for the last few games, and it would be unlikely that Sir Alex names him in the starting line-up again, as the manager chooses to conserve his aged stars. Hence, Fletcher, having been rested for the weekend, is most likely to start on the right wing, with Nani taking his duties on the left hand side and Giggs being benched. Rafael will take up his place at right back, while Smalling could be handed his second start in a row if Ferdinand fails to recover in time.

Key Match Facts

1) Blackpool have scored and conceded at least one goal in all home games this season.

2) Both teams last met in the top flight in 1970/71. Both games ended in 1-1.

3) Rooney in on 299 appearances for United.

TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR

Charlie Adam (Blackpool)

All eyes would be on the former Ranger’s man after his submission of a transfer request. The midfielder has been a major factor in the successful campaign for Blackpool so far this season. Adam himself would be willing to give his best display to prove his worth against better teams, one which would help him land a good deal at his new club should Holloway allows him to leave.

TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION

Blackpool 1-2 Manchester United

Both teams like to play attacking football and there are always goals at Bloomfield road as the results so far suggest. This game would be no different, with United just sneaking ahead for a third away victory of the season.

TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST