Sunday, May 22, 2011
It's goodbye Blackpool and Ancelotti as United enjoy Sunday stroll...
United strolled out onto the lush Old Trafford turf today for the final league game of the season against relegation threatened Blackpool; the pressure was off the newly crowned champions, but it was an altogether different story for the visitors.
Prior to kick-off, we were given a real treat when the home fans sent out a clear message to our 'old friends' at the wrong end of the East Lancs Road. The home fans spelled out the '19 Champions' message in a spectacularly colourful red and white mosaic - one that stretched the breadth of the lower tiers of the Stretord End, the old United Road Paddock (north stand) and the old Scoreboard End (East stand).
With the Premier League title already wrapped up, many United fans surely wouldn't have begrudged the struggling Seasiders a vital victory that would have saved them from relegation. It wasn't to be as United ran out 4-2 winners.
Blackpool have tried to play the game the 'right way'; they have tried to play attacking football and it's a real shame that they will once again be playing in the Championship next season. Ian Holloway and his players have been a breath of fresh air and you have to wonder how long it will be before we see Blackpool in the top flight again. Holloway will probably move on to a club with more resources and good luck to him for sticking to his attacking principles.
From a United perspective, today's performance wasn't exactly ideal preparation for next weekend's Champions League final with Barcelona. Blackpool put on a good show and with better finishing and a bit of luck, they might well have won. Fergie opted to ring the changes when bringing in the likes of Jonny Evans, Fletcher and Berbatov - but the manager was true to his word - it was a strong starting eleven.
It was Edwin van der Sar's last league game for United and he had to be at his best on a couple of occasions against Blackpool, but he could do nothing about a superb Charlie Adam free-kick five minutes before the break and a well worked goal on 57 minutes scored by Taylor-Fletcher.
But it was United who had taken the lead thanks to Park on 21 minutes, but prior to that Blackpool had squandered a couple of good chances to open the scoring. The visitors equalised before the break, and then went ahead thanks to Taylor-Fletcher. United responded when cranking up the pressure and it Anderson who scored a rare goal with a good finish from just inside the box, that was just three minutes after the visitors had taken the lead.
Lady luck deserted Blackpool on 74 minutes when Evatt had the misfortune to prod the ball into his own net with a clumsy attempted clearance. United went looking for the killer goal and piled on the pressure. Any doubt about the result and Blackpool's future, was settled on 81 minutes when substitute Michael Owed scored with a typical finish after he'd been put clean through on goal by Anderson. From that point on it was all over bar the shouting.
So what can we read into today's performance in the context of next weekend's final? For one thing, you can be 100% certain Berbatov will be on the bench. Berbatov had umpteen chances to score today, but he looked very much out of sorts when missing too many good openings - albeit chances he'd created himself. Park was taken off in the second-half and so he will be a racing-cert to face Barca, as will Rooney and Hernandez who was given a complete rest today.
The future of Paul Scholes is still very uncertain and if he does decide to retire, it will come as no great surprise. Scholes played today, but you do wonder if that will turn out to be his last game.
At the end of the game, Fergie did his usual bit on the mic, but it had a familiar ring about it, because we've done it so many times before, but following the disappointment of losing out to Chelsea last season, it felt good to know United are back on top. Fergie also paid tribute to Gary Neville and this blog will be posting more about Neville over the coming days.
For anyone like myself who was hoping that United fans were going to continue to bait City fans with a new banner following the removal of the quite brilliant 35 years ticker style banner from the Stretford End, there was a slight sense of disappointment, because the replacement looks like it will be aimed at Liverpool with the message '19 Times'. Still, if that turns out to be the replacement banner, it will surely have the desired effect... Listening to pretty much everyone connected with Man City - even Mancini - carping about that 35 years banner has been hilarious. Let's hope we can continue laughing for a few more years yet.
Moneybags Chelsea have parted company with Carlo Ancelotti - if anything sums up the total madness of the modern game, and in particular a club like Chelsea, it is this. Chelsea won the double in the Italian's first season. They have failed this season, but Ancelotti is a good coach with a good record.
Posted by James Ryddel - Editor at 8:18 pm