This might be the most important three points of the season.
As a game in hand, getting the win was crucial to get that gap at the top, but United were just…I dunno. Poor obviously, jaded looking. It’s possible that the December schedule is getting to them a little, and it cost them big time in the first half.
In fact, this whole season may prove to be a microcosm for Blackpool’s whole season. Flying high in the first half, stunning the big boys, then tiring around the middle, then faltering, then panicking, then losing, then defeated. I’ve seen it happen over and over again in this league, newly promoted clubs not being able to last the distance, losing games just out of sheer tiredness.
You could see it in the Blackpool team last night. Right around 43 minutes, just before they banged in their second, they looked wrecked, spent. And it cost them. It’s not a lack of fitness, they’re all professional footballers, but it is a lack of experience with the top flight game, experience that everyone on the United team has in spades. People talk about the great performance Blackpool put in and it was: but only for an hour. 2/3rds of an effort is none at all. I mean no disrespect to Blackpool, but you’ll see people say things like “Blackpool can be comforted/consoled with the performance of the team.” And I think “Yeah, sure, but I think the fans would have been more consoled with a point.”
Ian Holloway has became famous for making his team stay on the offensive all through their games, even when up against the big clubs. Usually, like say when Burnley hosted United last season, the little team scores, then parks the bus for the rest of the game. Not Blackpool. They keep attacking and its worked out for them…sometimes. But not last night. They refused to sit back and defend a one-goal lead. Fair enough. They refused to sit back and defend a two goal lead. Mistake. They got tired, they made mistakes and they lost the game in 15 minutes. That’s their fifth loss in six games. Nice looking football is great, but will it be much of a comfort when the team is fighting relegation?
Anyway, on the match itself. Smalling was very poor all game, at fault for both goals, though Rafeal must take some responsibility for the second, straying from his position on the line and not for the first time. We were poor, unable to make chances, pressed at the back.
Improvements were made for the second half. Rooney had a good game, but his lack of goal-scoring is simply impossible to overlook. I cannot accept that Ferguson will fight to keep him at the club in the summer if an acceptable offer comes in. This goes double since his replacement, Hernandez, did hit the net, and made other chances.
All it took was one goal to flip the thing, and Berba’s first did that, throwing Blackpool into a panic. They were shocking in the following 15 minutes, Berba’s second, and the winner, was a peach, the Bulgarian drawing the defender in, before running and lashing it home, though it was not a shot with much direction: it could have been saved.
From there, Blackpool had no answers, nothing left in the tank. Giggs was the crucial addition in the game, another great performance from the veteran, something that I know will be badly missed before too long.
On the disputed penalty shout, I don’t think much of the claims. My initial thought was that it was a fair shoulder. The replays show the Blackpool defender running into Rafeal, a player smaller and lighter than he was, going down like he’d been shot. Gimme a break. Holloway can be outraged all he likes. He’d be better served going after Berba’s first, which was marginally offside, just. Rafeal certainly didn’t get to celebrate much, being carted off the field due to a concussion delivered by a Blackpool player (a Pool player also busted Evra’s nose open in the first half).
Three points, a great fighting comeback. Still another 15 games to be played, but United are in as good a position as you might expect. Some tough games still to come, but they’ll be easier then this hopefully.