|photo by well_lucio||via PhotoRee|
Before United fans get too excited about their gritty comeback, and how this team has the character to win, and how the Sir Alex always makes the right moves, let us remember that the team they beat tonight, the team that took them to the brink, was a team that has only one player who would make the United roster. Of course, I'm talking again about Charlie Adam, and of course he may very well have been the best player on the pitch, but still, one man does not make an army.
It should also be noted that at the end of the day, for all the young superstars on United, it was Ryan Giggs that was relied on by Sir Alex to stem the tide. Giggs made an immediate impression on the game, and put together some Adam-esque passes to put United ahead. Of course the difference between Adam's passes and Giggs' is that when Adam plays the ball to his forwards they are usually outrun and have to turn back, whereas when Giggs plays it to his guys no one is going to slow them down.
Because of their 2-nil lead at halftime, this defeat will likely have a deep emotional impact on Blackpool. They outplayed and outclassed the 80% line-up that Sir Alex condescendingly and incorrectly believed was enough to beat Blackpool. It was only after he was down 2-nil at the half that he realized he would have to pull out everything he had to get a win or a draw.
Blackpool's men played admirably, but simply didn't have the speed to stay up with United, and the lack of depth of their roster made it possible for United to eventually run them out of the building.
From a tactical perspective, Sir Alex matched Rooney on the outside with the often abused Blackpool right back Eardley, but Rooney again played poorly and for some reason never challenged Eardley. Eardley has been victimized time and time again, so it is puzzling to me why Rooney didn't have a go of it -- I presumed that he was out there for some reason. Ultimately, maybe Sir Alex was as well, as Rooney was replaced in the second half.
United also didn't go to Nani often enough in the first half, despite the fact that he was being covered by Blackpool's reserve center midfielder. Why a reserve central midfielder? Simply because putting him at the left back position was the best option for Coach Holloway and his thin squad.
Rafael da Silva, I thought, played a reasonably good game, though I still find him reckless, as underscored by his body check of Varney in the penalty area that could easily have resulted in a penalty kick. It should be noted that while I have admonished da Silva in the past on this website, I certainly hope that the young man has no serious injury but rather is ready to return to the pitch soon.
For Blackpool, DJ Campbell played poorly. While he put in one goal via header, he was in the wrong position time and time again and missed several good opportunities. Unfortunately he was not alone, as a few great cut back passes and crosses where launched high and wide by Blackpool during the game.
Van der Saar also should be applauded for an excellent performance. His fingertip save on one Blackpool attempt only makes this loss even tougher for Blackpool supporters.
Despite their lead over the bottom three, the Tangerines still have to battle to keep from relegation. The squad is thin and tired, and their captain is being hounded by offers from a new team every day. However, with any luck their Coach will impress upon them the need to enjoy the ride they're on, including the adversity they've experienced today and in the past month.
To be certain, nothing would have been more fun to see than for Blackpool to break United's undefeated run. But despite coming up short, I still believe that Blackpool and not United will ultimately be the story of this season. And after watching a game like that -- after watching a group of out-manned, out-gunned cast-aways play the high priced, fancy-named talent of United to the brink -- I remain puzzled how anyone could think otherwise.
This is farlieonfootie for January 28.