When Manchester United and Blackpool met at Bloomfield Road almost four months ago, it proved to be one of the matches of the season.
Thanks to goals by former United prospect Craig Cathcart and DJ Campbell, United found themselves down 2-0 at halftime, and the deficit remained the same deep into the second half. Then, with less than 20 minutes remaining, the first goal came. Two minutes later, it was followed by another. Then, with the clock ticking towards the end of the 90 minutes, the winner came.
United’s 3-2 win, courtesy of a Dimitar Berbatov brace and a Javier Hernandez equalizer sandwiched between, was the second of three occasions this season in which United rallied from 2-0 down in the second half, and those three great escapes from defeat are a large part of why United enter the final day of the season with the Premier League title already wrapped up.
While our fightback at Bloomfield Road was a massive result for our title triumph, Blackpool could rue their failure to hold the lead that night if, come tomorrow evening, they find themselves being forced to look ahead to a swift return to the Championship. It would be considered a genuine shame, considering the entertainment that Ian Holloway’s side (and Holloway himself) have provided this season, but you have to get the right results to stay up, and Blackpool enter tomorrow needing to achieve the right result at Old Trafford and receive a few favors elsewhere to be able to maintain their place in the top flight.
With the title secure and the Champions League final to look forward to next Saturday, it’s only natural for Fergie to field a lineup that doesn’t include everyone we’ll likely see in the starting lineup or on the bench against Barcelona. However, those fearing, or perhaps for some in the Blackpool camp, hoping, United would send out a lineup filled with part-time starters, reserves, and youngsters, that won’t be the case.
First and foremost, tomorrow will see Edwin van der Sar make his final appearance at Old Trafford, and after giving way to Tomasz Kuszczak for the title-clinching draw at Blackburn, the veteran Dutch custodian will receive the start.
Paul Scholes is also set for what could be his last start at Old Trafford, and with his uncertain future in mind, there’s no doubt he’ll be receiving plenty of applause before, during, and after the match.
We should also see Anderson in the starting lineup for the first time since his brace against Schalke, as the Brazilian was an unused substitute against Chelsea and Blackburn, and Patrice Evra will also start in order to aid his match fitness ahead of next weekend. It also appears that we’ll finally see Darren Fletcher back in the starting lineup after gradually getting back into the swing of things after his long spell on the sidelines. His full return isn’t a moment too soon, because if fit, he could have a key role to play at Wembley.
Last, but not least, Dimitar Berbatov is a certainty to start up front, as he enters the season’s final day tied with Carlos Tevez in the race for the Premier League Golden Boot with 20 goals, after both had a previous goal chalked off this past week. Berbatov had managed to stay atop the board for much of the season, but his lack of starts over the last few months finally caught up to him, and so did Tevez, with his two goals in City’s midweek win over Stoke City.
Overall, it won’t be our strongest lineup, but it will still be a lineup that could take care of business against most sides, so any worries that we’re trying to do Blackpool a favor are needless. That being said, Blackpool will likely fancy their chances to get a positive result against this lineup a little more than they would if we were starting all of the big guns and the title was still not assured coming into the final day.
So, what will we see tomorrow? It’d be great if we could see both EVDS record a clean sheet and Berbatov notch the goal(s) that will land him the Golden Boot. But if anything, we need to make sure we make it through the afternoon unscathed in regards to injuries to anyone who will have a role to play in the Champions League final.
It’ll be interesting to see what approach Blackpool take, but I don’t see Holloway putting his team in a position where they’re putting their fate more into the hands of Tottenham, Stoke, Blackburn, and Wolves. So, we shouldn’t see Blackpool deviate from their usual intent, whatever results it may bring for them.
In the end, the result is far more relevant for Blackpool than for United, but the lineup we’ll have out there will be good enough to take all three points and put a little extra gloss on our championship celebrations.
Prediction: Manchester United 3-2 Blackpool
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