With the historic #19 finally wrapped up, tomorrow is sure to be a day of celebration, as the Reds pick up their Premier League crown at the end of an enthralling domestic campaign. However, as concentration inevitably drifts towards to the Champions League Final, on the 28th May, we still have the not so insignificant matter of a match against Blackpool to consider. Although some may say the result is irrelevant tomorrow, I am sure Sir Alex will see it as a matter of a professional courtesy that his team get a result and beat Blackpool, just as they have when (virtually) everyone else has visited the Theatre of Dreams this season.
In what will be his penultimate appearance before retirement, Edwin Van Der Sar is expected to lead the team out tomorrow, for what is sure to be a most memorable day for the legendary Dutch stopper. Bowing out at the top of his game, I am sure Edwin will be in the same imperious form that we have come to expect this season, as he tries to maintain his match sharpness before the trip to Wembley next week. In terms of his replacement next season, last weekend illustrated clearly why Kuszczak isn’t up to the job but Lindegaard has impressed in his short time at Old Trafford, while a deal for David De Gea seems almost certain.
At the back, I think Sir Alex will bring in both Smalling & Evans, for Rio & Vidic, as Sir Alex tries to decide who is his 3rd choice CB for the CL Final next week. In recent weeks, Ferguson has commented on Jonny Evans’ excellent form but we all know just how incredibly well Smalling has played all season. Either way, I am sure both deputies will be keen to put in a strong display and ensure they are 3rd choice CB for the trip to Wembley, next week.
At LB, Sir Alex has confirmed that Evra will start, considering his recent lack of first team football but at RB, I think we may see a surprise selection. Since our victory in Moscow, Wes Brown has dropped considerably down the pecking order (Rafael, O’Shea, Brown) thanks to some unfortunate injuries and apparent arguments. This, coupled with his age and contract situation, seems to suggest (to me) that he may well be leaving in the summer and therefore I expect to see Sir Alex to give him one last run out in front of the Stretford End before he leaves for pastures new.
In central midfield, I think Anderson & Fletcher will both be given another opportunity to prove their match fitness (with them also featuring in Neville’s testimonial) before next Saturday but, personally, I believe that if either is to be selected next Saturday, they’ll have to put in one hell of a performance (to displace Giggs/ Carrick).
I expect to see Paul Scholes partnering them in the centre, who may well be playing his last game for United. Sir Alex is keen to keep him on for another year but I get the feeling Scholes may be reluctant to play on for another year, considering how sparingly he has been used in the latter half of this season.
Out wide, I thought one of Gabriel Obertan or Ravel Morrison may have challenged for a starting place but considering the Reserve game, that was played on Friday, and the FAYC Final, that is to be played on Monday, I doubt either will feature. Therefore, I think the returning Rafael may well play at RM, in order to allow him to show Sir Alex he has the match fitness to play against Barcelona. On the left, I think Nani would have to play spectacularly to displace one of Valencia or Park next Saturday, unless Sir Alex drops the South Korean into the middle, to make a 5 man midfield.
Up front, Dimitar Berbatov will be pumped up considering the fact it is a straight shoot-out between him and Tevez for the Premier League Golden Boot award, as they both currently have 20 goals.
Some Stats- Courtesy of BBC Sport
Blackpool head to Old Trafford for the first time since the 1974/75 season, when both sides were in the second tier. Manchester United beat Blackpool 4-0 en route to winning the championship, and promotion back to the top flight.
Dimitar Berbatov has scored seven winning goals this season, more than anyone else in the league.
No opposition player has scored a first-half goal at Old Trafford in the Premier League this season. The last player to do so was Chelsea’s Joe Cole in April 2010.
Sir Alex Ferguson‘s side have amassed 52 points out of a possible 54 on home soil this season, and are unbeaten at Old Trafford since April 2010. A victory here would see them equal the record of 55 points at home set by Chelsea in 2005/06.
United have won 14 consecutive Premier League matches at Old Trafford. If they beat Blackpool it will set a Premier League record, moving one ahead of Newcastle (14) from May 1995 to February 1996.
Having risen up the leagues from humble beginnings, at Northwich Victoria, Taylor-Fletcher has impressed many, myself included, with how he has adapted to Premier League football, with 5 goals and 7 assists to his name this season. Technically not the most gifted footballer, Gary is a typical example of hard work overcoming natural ability, when natural ability doesn’t work hard. Playing in what may well be the biggest match of his career ever, I’m sure the winger will be keen to put a dampener on United’s title celebrations.
Blackpool 2 1 Liverpool
Key Clash- DJ Campbell v Jonny Evans
After his terrible start to the season, it seems Jonny has finally refound some of the form which led Sir Bobby Charlton to label him a future United Captain. Fully fit after a difficult campaign, the Northern Irishman will most certainly have to have a good day if he is to stop the charasmatic DJ Campbell adding to his impressive Premier League goal-tally of 13.
My Prediction- Manchester United 2 2 Blackpool
Fighting for their Premier League survival, Blackpool will most certainly pose a tough test for Sir Alex’s men, just as they did when we visited Bloomfield Road earlier this season. In desperate need of 3 points, I expect Ian Holloway do what he has done all season and throw caution to the wind, as he tried to outscore the opposition, knowing his team are defensively very weak. Considering this and some of the mixed-emotional mindsets of our own team, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them nick a point, in what is sure to be an enthralling encounter.
Note: Be sure to check out our Pre-Match interview with Blackpool blogger, Tangerine Dreaming here.