Old Trafford, Manchester
May 22, 2011; 15:00 GMT [+5:30 IST]
Ian Holloway and his Blackpool side travel to the home of the newly crowned league champions in a bid to avoid relegation. The Tangerine dream hangs by a thread as relying on garnering even a point at the Theatre of Dreams is a Himalayan ask. Man United on the other hand will be out to entertain; the Old Trafford crowd will be in a mood to party as their beloved heroes have made them proud once again by bringing back the trophy to, what every Red Devil supporter worth his salt will say is, its rightful place.
This game has an impact on all other relegation contenders in some manner so Fergie will surely put out a competitive side, certain that any eleven he chooses should be good enough to do the job at Old Trafford as illustrated by the thumping of FC Shalke. Blackpool have been the entertainers of the league, playing some delightful football in the process and all neutrals will certainly be cheering on the underdogs. Can Charlie Adam inspire the seasiders for the umpteenth time, or will the fairytale end in tragedy?
Despite going into the game having secured a record 19th league title last weekend at Ewood Park, United still have certain things to play for such as their tremendous record at Old Trafford this season where they have just dropped two points all season. Also, Berbatov would be keen to win the golden boot award as he goes into the game level on 21 goals with former Red Devil Carlos Tevez. It would also be a melancholic day for United fans as it could well be the last day of competitive football at Old Trafford for two of their greatest idols – Edwin Van Der Sar and Paul Scholes.
Blackpool, on the other hand, are fighting for their lives as they find themselves in the bottom three going into the final weekend on the league season. With the toughest task at hand amongst all those involved in the relegation battle, Blackpool will need nothing short of a miracle if they are to stay up. It would be a great pity if the Tangerines went down as they have played a refreshing brand of football rarely to be seen practiced by a newly promoted team. Despite conceding an average of two goals a game, Holloway’s men still have a chance of survival thanks to an attacking that has seen them score a lot of goals as well. All eyes will be on captain Charlie Adam who could well be playing his last game for the team in orange as the Scot has been on the radar of several teams across England.
Team News and Tactical Brief
With the Champions League final coming up next weekend against Barcelona, there has been a lot of talk in the media about what team would be put out by Sir Alex, as there is so much riding on this game. But as Schalke found out in the Champions League semis at Old Trafford, same as Hull City a couple of seasons ago, that there is no weak team at Manchester United.
Sir Alex has indicated that most of the players who would be involved at Wembley next week would play some part in this game or in the Gary Neville testimonial coming up midweek to retain their match sharpness. Fergie gave full two weeks off to the players before the final in 2009 which, in his opinion, proved to be fatal as the team failed to turn up for the big game in Rome that time. Also, players like Van Der Sar who will retire after this season and Paul Scholes who has still not decided on his future for next season, could be involved as this could be their last game at Old Trafford after having served the club for such a long time.
Still, expect loads of changes especially in defence as both Ferdinand and Vidic are likely to be rested alongwith Evra and Fabio. Evans and Smalling would take up central defensive duties with John O’ Shea and Rafael operating as full backs. Park-Ji-Sung could also start having been rested last week but as he is also certain to start against Barcelona, he could be taken off after the hour mark. Darren Fletcher could also make his first start in months after being sidelined due to a virus infection and could be partnered by Paul Scholes. United’s player’s player of the year – Nani is likely to begin the game on the right flank. Up front, it would be Michael Owen and Dimitar Berbatov – who will try to score as many as he possibly can to capture the golden boot ahead of Tevez.
Probable Starting XI: Van Der Sar, O’ Shea, Smalling,Evans, Rafael, Nani, Scholes, Fletcher, Park, Owen, Berbatov
MUFC team news update# Sir Alex on Sunday v Blackpool: “Van der Sar, Fletcher,Scholes, Anderson, Berba & Evra will all play because they need a game.
Ian Holloway, like Sir Alex, has a fully fit squad for the game and would be hoping his team put in a performance like they did against United in the first half at Bloomfield road when they went into the break with a 2-0 lead. The manager will also be encouraged by the fact that Derby County and West Ham in recent seasons have come to Old Trafford on Coronation day and grabbed a win needed for their survival.
Holloway has encouraged his team to play an attacking brand of football all season and there is no reason to believe that he would not do the same again at Old Trafford. He is expected to go again with a 4-3-3 formation that did the job for him last week against Bolton in a thrilling 4-3 win, however, he will be praying his team work harder defensively. It could well be an unchanged line-up as all the players are fit and raring to go. Top-scorer DJ Campbell would feature in the front three alongside Taylor-Fletcher and Puncheon. Charlie Adam would once again be the man pulling the strings from midfield aided by David Vaughan and Keith Southern. Andy Reid could also be brought in later in the game for a striker if the manager decides to switch to a 4-4-2. Marlone Harewood is also an option for Holloway, for use in the later stages of the game, as Blackpool try to hold the ball up and push men forward. Baptiste and Evatt will be marshalling the Tangerine defence.
Probable Starting XI: Gilks, Evatt, Baptiste, Crainey, Eardely, Vaughan, Adam, Southern, Campbell, Taylor-Fletcher, Puncheon
Key Match Facts
1) Manchester United have dropped just two points all season and could equal Chelsea’s home record of 2005-06 season if they win this game.
2) United could overhaul the points tally of 79 they managed in their treble winning season if they manage to win on Sunday.
3) Blackpool have conceded 74 goals this season which is the most by any team in the top two divisions in England.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Dimitar Berbatov (Manchester United)
The Bulgarian has found himself on the bench lately and that has resulted in Carlos Tevez catching him in the race for the golden boot. However, Berbatov could not have picked a better game than Blackpool at Old Trafford to capture the prize. All eyes will be on the Red Devils’ striker to see if he can claim a personal moment of glory to add to the league medal he will receive at the end of the game.
Manchester United 3-1 Blackpool
Sir Alex will put out a weakened line-up but even that could prove to be too strong for the Tangerines. The fortress that Old Trafford is seems to be a step too far for Blackpool which means that their stay in the top flight will come to a sorry end unless of course Birmingham fail even more miserably at Tottenham.