Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Fergie gets it all wrong, but makes amends as United's trip to the seaside ends on a happy note...

Not for the first time this season, Ferguson got his tactics all wrong on Tuesday night when United travelled for that rearranged game with Blackpool. The United manager started with a narrow 4-3-3 formation which included Rooney, Berbatov and Nani; the Bulgarian led the line. Blackpool are not uber defensive, not a bit of it, they play cavalier football and so it should have been a case of going toe-to-toe with the Seasiders, but instead it was almost as if United were on a tough European away assignment.

From the first kick, United's passing was collectively nothing short of diabolical. A succession of short passes from the visitors in the white shirts either went out of play and or to no one in particular. It looked as though the United players were struggling on the playing surface - at times, it was reminiscent of those trips to the Stade Louis II in Monaco (without the glamour) and its car park underneath the pitch.

In stark contrast, Charlie Adam and the rest of the Blackpool players didn't appear to have any problem with the playing surface, but they are of course used to it.

United were very out of sorts during what was a dreadful first-half. Blackpool deservedly went two up; the first scored by former United youngster Cathcart. When Ferguson and his backroom team review the replays of that opening goal, there will without doubt be a searching inquest, because the marking was none existent. To make matters worse, two minutes before half-time, DJ Campbell doubled Blackpool's advantage and once again it came about from a corner, this time thanks to an assist from Nani via a poor defensive header.

The onlooking United fans and one suspects Ferguson himself, were hoping to go into the break just one down, but when Campbell scored the second goal there was a mountain to climb. In truth, Blackpool could easily have gone into the break four -nil up and if they had done, United couldn't have complained.

Vidic has been one of United's top performers this season, but he didn't have a great game and was extremely fortunate not to score an own goal following a poor header which bounced back off the turf and into the arms of Van der Sar. United were on the rack at times in what was an error ridden opening period. Blackpool squandered a couple of good chances to extend their advantage and Rafael got away with a shoulder charge which could easily have been given as a penalty, but thankfully, referee Peter Walton waved away the appeals of the Blackpool players.

Fergie had elected to start with Paul Scholes, Darron Gibson and Darren Fletcher in midfield, but the engine room, to put it mildly, did not function in that opening spell; Scholes couldn't get into the game - Gibson will never be a United player - he simply isn't good enough and quite why Ferguson persists in playing him is a good question to ask. Gibson is a one trick pony, he has a kick on him like a mule, but all too often his attempts on goal are wayward - take away his long-range shooting 'ability' and there's nothing else to talk about. Gibson cannot tackle, his passing isn't great and his work-rate is nowhere near good enough. Fletcher isn't technically gifted, but he works extremely hard for the team, but of late his passing has been worse than normal and against Blackpool, Adams gave him the run around at times; the Scotland captain was embarrassingly nutmegged at one low-point by his fellow countryman.

Clearly, Ferguson had to do some something at half-time in a bid to change United's fortunes; the United manager was in fact largely to blame for getting the starting formation and the choice of personnel wrong. Predictably, Gibson was replaced by Giggs and balance was restored to the United attack with genuine wingers on the flanks.

What was a simple change made all the difference and as a result United started to play like a team again and the goal scoring opportunities soon followed. Instead of being on the back foot, it was Blackpool who were having to defend. With just under half an hour remaining, and in a bid to make the vital breakthrough, Ferguson made the right call when sending on Hernandez for Rooney who didn't have a good game.

United pulled a goal back on 72 minutes and what a goal it was; a passage of good passing ended with Nani picking out the excellent run of Fletcher and he found Berbatov who had the relatively simple task of converting from close range.

Two minutes later, Hernandez brought United level with a superb finish. Giggs played the Mexican in on the edge of the Blackpool box 'Chicarito' controlled what was a quite brilliant pass with his first touch and dispatched the ball with the second touch giving Kingson no chance. With the clock running down, it looked as though there'd only be one winner and it wasn't going to be those in Orange shirts.

Two minutes before the end of normal time, Berbatov smashed home what was in the end a well deserved winner following an arrow like Scholes pass.

In the end, it was a thoroughly entertaining night and one that has been so typical of United down the years - we rarely make it easy and against Blackpool that was very much the case. Apart from the mistakes of the first-half, the only worry was what looked like a serious neck injury sustained by Rafael. The young Brazilian was sent to hospital with suspected concusion.

No doubting the on-looking, Manchester City fans will have been spewing and cursing into their beers as United went five points clear at the top of the Barclays Premier League.

Man of the match: Berbatov.
Final score: Blackpool 2-3 United.
Entertainment value: 4/5

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