The final game of the Premiership season is upon us, and Manchester United host Blackpool in a game that will see the reds lift the league trophy for a record 19th time.
It’s a day for celebration, a few beers, and Old Trafford will be a party atmosphere now that the pressure is off, and we can relax.
Or can we?
As champions, we head in to this as part of a relegation battle. The Seasiders will aim to spoil the party in a bid to throw their own, as they fight to stay up, and the media (and no doubt the FA) will have us under strict scrutiny to make sure we field a team capable of beating them.
Ian Holloway’s side have sprung countless surprises this season. A double over Liverpool, victories over Newcastle United and Spurs, and going 2-0 up against us, make it hard to believe Blackpool could be out of the Premiership by Sunday night.
They play a strong, positive game, like to score goals, but often concede. They’ve leaked 74 goals this season, a gap which has proven to be their downfall.
After beating Bolton in a 4-3 epic last weekend, they could field the same team on Sunday, after notching their first win in 11 games against the Trotters. The team who took to the field last week were:
Gilks, Eardley, Evatt, Baptiste, Crainey, Southern, Adam , Vaughan, Taylor-Fletcher, Campbell, Puncheon.
Chris Cathcart and James Beattie came off the bench for them – not a bad couple of players for Blackpool to rely on.
Holloway has the luxury of having a full strength side to choose from, with no injuries or suspensions hanging over his head.
Edwin van der Sar will make his final home appearance for United, as he retires from football after the Champions League final. Sir Fergie has already confirmed that Darren Fletcher, Dimitar Berbatov, Paul Scholes, Anderson, and Patrice Evra will all feature at some point for the reds, posing the following questions:
- Will Berbatov top the scoring charts, with ‘homesick’ Carlos Tevez insisting he wants to leave City and probably go to Italy and being unlikely to play in the blue shirt again
- Can Darren Fletcher make enough of this game to earn a place in the Champions League final next week?
- Will this be Paul Scholes’ final home game too, or will he sign a new deal?
Despite United already doing what they need to do in the league this season, other teams around the drop zone have to rely on United to ignore the Champions League final and pick a strong side. Personally, I’m of the belief that if you get yourself in to a relegation mess, you get yourself out – and if a team wins the league with a couple of games to spare, they can pick a team based on the next trophy they’re going for. Why should you risk your success for that of others?
Holloway agrees, and said in the Daily Mail that the FA want them out of the league:
‘They will be relieved if we lose and get relegated,’ said Holloway. ‘Then I am not badgering them. I am so annoyed. Sir Alex Ferguson is a winner. He would never dream of not being interested in winning any match. That man deserves to pick whatever team he wants to pick. No one should question it. Look at his record. Those people running the game, what planet are they on? They must have beamed down from planet Zarf. They are not in the right world. They think we can only beat Manchester United if they are weak. What a load of baloney. Unfortunately, that is what we are dealing with.’
‘On Sunday, we have to try and do the impossible. It’s got to be perfect. No one else has beaten them. And if we do, they might get fined because we are rubbish.’
The above is exactly the reason I want Blackpool to stay up – Ian Holloway is a breath of fresh air to the Premiership in these times of luke warm, urinated down media soundbites. How great would it be for ALL 75,000 fans in Old Trafford on Sunday to have something to cheer about at the end of the game?
Men to watch
Charlie Adam: Blackpool’s biggest and best player. He’s good from set pieces, is their engine room, and Blackpool will be lucky to hold on to him in the summer. United have been linked to him, but he struggled with Rangers’, isn’t European class, and I don’t think he’s good enough for a top four team. 12 goals from midfield this season.
DJ Campbell: Blackpool’s top scorer with 13 Premier League goals, putting him ahead of Wayne Rooney, Peter Crouch and Jermaine Defoe (England call beckoning?), Fernando Torres and Didier Drogba. Not bad for someone who was lambasted for failing to score for Birmingham in the Premiership when he earned a move there in 2006. Seven goals with his right foot, and four with his left.
Gareth Taylor-Fletcher: Goal scoring midfielder, signed from Huddersfield in 2007. Has five goals to his name this season, and has started 29 of the 30 games he’s played for The Tangerines. Sunday’s game will be a year to the day since he scored in the 39th minute of the play off final last season where Blackpool claimed promotion. Upon doing so, Taylor-Fletcher had completed the journey from non-league football with Grays Athletic, to the Premiership in seven years.
So, it’s not quite season over yet, and Blackpool will be fighting for survival and will no doubt give us a game. Our lot will be playing to show they’re worthy of a starting place at Wembley next week, and both teams want to have happy celebrations at the end of it.
Here’s to a fantastic day, and wherever you’ll be, enjoy the game.
Why not celebrate United’s 19th title in style by wearing the latest “Champions 19” t-shirt from the Red Flag Flying High store?
Commemorating the year of every title triumph, this tshirt looks the business, and let’s face it…you’d look AWESOME in it! Click on the T-Shirt to visit the Red Flag Flying High store