If Mystic Meg would’ve told me a few days ago United would be part of a five goal thriller at Bloomfield Road, I’d have probably have put money on a 5-0 or maybe a 4-1 at the most. It’s not that I didn’t admire what Blackpool have achieved this season, it’s just recent results seemed to be pointing towards the wheels coming off The Seasider’s season, while United have looked rampant.
Credit to Blackpool though, as for 50 minutes, they excelled themselves and to be fair were a little unlucky not to grab a third or even fourth goal. The ‘penalty’ incident I’ll come to later but even that aside Ian Holloway’s men tested United on several occasions and had they had some quicker decision making and perhaps a little bit more belief then The Seasider’s could well have pulled off the upset of the season.
The first half was arguably the worst United performance since Upton Park-while the second half- of the second half – performance was one of the best 20 minutes I’ve seen all season. United did what they do best, came back from the seemingly dead and as many opponents have found out over the years, “Man United will never die.”
So what did last night’s 3-2 victory tell us other than crash helmets should probably be compulsory the next time we visit Bloomfield Road and ‘Fergie Time’ has nothing on ‘Olly Time?’
1. A tale of two Darrens. I’m not talking about the difference between Fletcher and Gibson, I’m talking about the Jekyll and Hyde, schizophrenic nature that seems to be the norm for the slimmer of the two. People may be quick to jump on the ‘Gibson’s not good enough’ bandwagon and while I’m admittedly not his greatest fan, I do think he’s made the scapegoat far too often. The first half performance by many United players was appalling but Fletcher had his worst 45 minutes since the ‘Fergie’s lovechild’ days that we seldom mention anymore.
At the start of the season I claimed United needed Fletcher to perform more consistently if we were to win back ‘our trophy.’ Fortunately the likes of Carrick, Anderson and Scholes have performed magnificently for large parts of the season, as Fletcher has struggled to find any sort of form for some time now. Don’t get me wrong there have been superb ‘barnstorming displays’ but they’ve often been followed -or preceded- by mediocre ones.
Fletcher’s form- or lack of it- has caused a slight concern for some time now and last night was an example of what his season has been like so far. I the first half he looked anything but the man who’s suspension many- although not me if I’m totally honest- blamed for the 2009 CL Final loss.
Although the second half wasn’t perfect for Fletcher, although it was a marked improvement, but one bad half and one good one -or one bad game then one good one- just ain’t good enough.
2. Rio is the key to an organised defence. I’ve long thought that Rio should never have had the Captaincy taken off him, as despite his injury problems when he’s on the pitch he is the team’s natural leader/organiser. Last night was a case in point, as although Vidic was his usual solid self- he didn’t marshall the troops in the same way Peckham’s finest usually does. If United are to prevail this season, then keeping Rio fit may well be the key as although Smalling could one day be the ‘new Rio Ferdinand’ he’s still got a long way to go and it’s unfair to expect him to fill that void in his first United season.
For both of Blackpool’s goals, I couldn’t help thinking that had Rio been there, it may have been a different story, if only players were allowed to carry mobile phones onto the pitch- then @RioFerdy5 could tweet them where to stand on corners.
It wasn’t just set-pieces that United looked vulnerable on, for large parts of the game, the back four looked chaotic and needed not only a drill sergeant-like organiser but also someone who could put their foot on the ball and calm things down a bit.
3. It’s time to take up yoga. If it’s practicing yoga that’s helped Ryan Giggs to roll back the years, then I’m booking myself on a course immediately. Giggs- who was introduced in at half -time for the quiet Gibson- was inspired. It was like watching Ryan Giggs’ circa -92-94 as he tormented the Blackpool full back Neil Eardley and picked out several telling passes. Even though Giggs’ is old enough to be Chicharito’s dad, his energy and the superb shape he’s kept himself in, proves that in the words of Aaliyah: “Age ain’t nothing but a number.”
The welsh wizard has just committed for another season at United but I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a Paolo Maldini length career from Giggs. He really does seem to be playing some of the best football of his career- at least in the last ten years- and his efforts seem to galvanise the rest of the team. Giggs chased lost balls, made tackles, created chances- and goals- and ran at defenders, people may say his recent personal accolades have been more for his career than his performances of late- yet if he keeps this up another PFA award could be well on its way.
4. Wayne Rooney is no left winger. People will be quick to get on Rooney’s case following what was a below-par performance from him, but his cause wasn’t helped by Sir Alex starting him on the left wing. Rooney looked out of sorts and pretty much out of the game and was moved into the middle mid-way through the first half. Although he didn’t exactly shine up front, his performance was a lot better than it had been from the wing and despite being substituted for Chicharito he was far from the worst player on the pitch.
Rooney’s struggled for form, consistency and goals this season, yet playing him out wide is not going to help him improve any of those factors. Wazza is a striker and if he is going to play then he should be used in his natural position -one where he’s served United so well these past few years.
5. Rafael cannot afford to keep gambling. I’m a firm believer that Rafael Da Silva will learn from his mistakes and that he’s still the best choice for United’s right back position. One thing’s abundantly clear though, the rash challenges -which are part and parcel of his game – need to be looked at. Last season his sending off against Bayern Munich was seen by some as a turning point in United’s fortunes- although for me that was a little over-simplistic. Against Blackpool, Rafael’s block/push/shove/ obstruction- whatever happened to those?- on Luke Varney could well have cost United the game. Although to be fair the referee showed some level of consistency as he’d failed to award United a blatant free kick for a much worse challenge by Charlie Adam on Patrice Evra.
Rafael is an amazing talent but some of his decision making is sailing very close to the wind and although I don’t want him to change his aggressive nature totally, it does need to be channeled. I’m sure I wasn’t alone though in feeling more than a little worried seeing the young Brazilian stretchered off- although reports suggest it was only a mild concussion and he should be fine, despite not being able to play in the FA Cup against Southampton.
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