Manchester United 4 Blackpool 2: Seasiders' escape scuppered despite Old Trafford heroics

23 May 2011 10:07

There will be no fines for Manchester United; nobody questioning their integrity. Not when Sir Alex Ferguson used five players who will probably start against Barcelona on Saturday and not when they condemned Blackpool to the Championship with the same ruthless efficiency they have shown at Old Trafford all season.

In the end, it was a rather bizarre afternoon of mixed emotions as well as mixed fortunes. While the home side celebrated their record 19th championship in some style, the visitors had to endure the agony of relegation only to discover that their attempts to return to the Barclays Premier League might yet be complicated by European football next season.

That sinking feeling: Blackpool had the wind taken out of their sails after Ian Evatt's own goal

'The fat lady is singing and unfortunately I do not like her tune,' conceded Ian Holloway. For United, too, t e atmosphere was tempered by a touch of sadness. It was not just a farewell to Holloway's side but to Edwin van der Sar and quite possibly one or two others.

Has Paul Scholes played his last competitive game at Old Trafford? Will Michael Owen be here next season?Owen Hargreaves has certainly gone.

Heartbeaker: Ian Evatt (left) scored an own goal to give Manchester United a 3-2 lead at Old Trafford

Both Ferguson and Van der Sar addressed the supporters, with United's manager praising a performance that 'epitomised' his team and Van der Sar jokingly suggesting Ferguson should have signed him sooner than he did.

Joking aside, he has a point. It has been quite a six-year stint for Van der Sar. Four league titles, three European Cup finals, and a swansong season at Old Trafford in which United suffered not a single home defeat.

Level-pegging: Anderson (right) converted after some neat work with Park Ji-Sung to make it 2-2

They flirted with it yesterday, easing off the gas after Park Ji-sung's 21st-minute goal and contriving to let Blackpool secure the lead with a free-kick from Charlie Adam and amarvellous backheel by Gary Taylor-Fletcher.

MATCH FACTS MANCHESTER UTD (4-3-2-1 ): Van der Sar 7; R da Silva 6 (Smalling 46min, 6), Evans 6, Vidic 6 (Rooney 84, 6), Evra 7; Anderson 7, Fletcher 6, Scholes 6; Nani 6, Park 7 (Owen 63, 6); Berbatov 6. Subs not used: Lindegaard, Ferdinand, Valencia, Gibson. Booked: Fletcher, Owen.

BLACKPOOL (4-5-1) Gilks 7; Eardley 6, Baptiste 5, Evatt 4, Crainey 5; Taylor- Fletcher 7 (Varney 75, 6), Vaughan 6, Southern 5 (Ormerod 87, 6), Adam 7, Puncheon 6 (Phillips 75, 6); Campbell 6. Subs not used: Kingson, Cathcart, Harewood, Beattie. Booked: Vaughan.

Man of the match: Park Ji-sung.

Referee: Mike Dean 7.

When the latter struck 57 minutes into this thoroughly entertaining encounter, Blackpool were staying up. But before Ian Evatt is too hard on himself for the own goal that gave United a 3-2 lead, and before Michael Owen thinks the important goal he predicted he would score proved important for Wolves, it was actually Anderson's equaliser that killed Blackpool.

Only victory would have saved them here yesterday, and they just lacked the defensive quality to keep their noses in front.

It has been a recurring problem this season. With gifted individuals like Adam and Taylor-Fletcher they have played some super football, really giving it a go. They did again here yesterday.

They scored 55 goals this season, behind just United, Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool. Butthey had comfortably the worst defensive record in the league, conceding 78.

The 75th came when Evatt somehow failed to intercept a ball forward from Dimitar Berbatov, and Park was there to pounce and lifted a neat finish over the advancing Matthew Gilks.

In Adam, though, Blackpool appeared to have their saviour. The player who was about to demonstrate why it was so important he did not move to Liverpool in January.

In dreamland: Blackpool celebrate taking the lead through Gary Taylor-Fletcher's strike

Presented with an opportunity to hit back after Nemanja Vidic's foul on Taylor-Fletcher, Adam beat Van der Sar with a shot that flew home via the left-hand post.

That meant Blackpool were safe. And when Taylor-Fletcher completed a move that started with a back-heel fromJason Puncheon with one of his own, the ball spinning beyond Van der Sar and in off his right-hand post, their position in the top flight appeared even more secure.

Then, however, came a perfect demonstration of why Blackpool are down. Anderson's 62nd-minute equaliser was all too easy, the Brazilian completing a one-two with Parkwith a delightful left-foot finish.

Pinpoint: Charlie Adam arrows home his free-kick moments before half-time

Then came the own goal from Evatt, the centre half recklessly diverting Chris Smalling's cross past Gilks and into his own net when it was not that difficult a ball with which todeal.

To Evatt's credit, he tried to rectify the situation by scoring at the opposite end and had it not beenfor Van der Sar's bravery he might well have done so.

But defensive disorganisation would prove their undoing again, Anderson delivering a pass into the path of an unchallenged Owen, who marked his first league title with a trademark finish. It was crushing for Blackpool.

Fight: Blackpool's players chase Adam after he made it 1-1 against the champions

The end of an adventure that has certainly been memorable, if only for the post-match offerings of their manager.

'Unfortunately our castle was built of sand but there is concrete underneath,' said Ollie, and that would beabout right. While United now head to Wembley, Blackpool need to work on finding a bit more solidity.

Hope: Blackpool fans were out in force for their relegation decider

 Survival Sunday live - how the relegation dogfight unfolded in the Barclays Premier LeagueGlory, glory, Man United! Fergie's men lift the Premier League trophy at Old TraffordWatch all the Premier League goals every week on our brilliant video playerAll the latest Manchester United news, features and opinionAll the latest Blackpool news, features and opinion

 Explore more:People: Ian Holloway, Michael Owen, Charlie Adam, Alex Ferguson, Paul Scholes, Nemanja Vidic, Dimitar Berbatov, Mike Dean, Edwin Van Der Sar, Park Ji-sung, Nani, Owen Hargreaves Places: Barcelona, Liverpool

Source: Daily_Mail