Blackpool 2-3 Manchester United: Berbatov inspires stunning comeback
Published 21:42 25/01/11 By Oliver Holt
It is bleak in Blackpool this time of year. The tram tracks are being dug up, the promenade is deserted, the shutters are down on the snack bars and a bitter wind blows in off the Irish Sea.
But last night, the resort burst into glorious life again. For 70 minutes, Blackpool had the mighty Manchester United on the rack at Bloomfield Road, the ghosts of Matthews and Mortensen danced a jig and winter became a tangerine summer.
It was too good to last. United don't do fairy tales. Except their own. So Ryan Giggs, who is 37 and getting younger every day, turned the game.
Inspired by their ageless wonder, United conjured yet another stirring comeback from 2-0 down to take all three points and a victory that tightened their grip on the title.
So Blackpool manager Ian Holloway did not get to float home on bubbles of champagne, as he had said he would if his team pulled off their most famous victory since the Matthews Cup Final in 1953.
And United preserved their season-long unbeaten record. It stretches to 28 matches in total now and moved them five points clear of Arsenal at the top of the Premier League.
It was still a magical night, though, a night when Goliath shuddered, a night when Charlie Adam played like a young Paul Scholes and added another couple of million to the £4m Liverpool have already offered for him.
"No matter what you do, United are not going to stop," Holloway said after the game. "Everything about them is fantastic but we are devastated that we have lost."
The Blackpool boss had said before the game he would be surprised if United were not two goals up within the first ten minutes but it was his side that took the lead.
Adam swung over a corner from the right after 15 minutes with pace and curl and Craig Cathcart, who never quite made the grade at United and arrived at Blackpool in the summer, escaped marker Dimitar Berbatov and powered a bullet header past Van der Sar.
Blackpool did not rest on their laurels. Ten minutes after they took the lead they nearly went 2-0 up in bizarre circumstances.
Adam curled in another difficult cross from the left that caught Vidic in two minds about how to clear it. He tried to stoop to head it clear but only diverted it goalwards from two yards out straight at Van der Sar.
Van der Sar managed to smother it but a minute later Blackpool had an even better chance. After a goalmouth scramble, the ball fell to Varney on the right and when he squared it to Grandin unmarked ten yards out, he could only lift it high over the bar.
The momentum stayed with Blackpool. Three minutes before half time, Van der Sar was forced into action again, tipping a fierce shot from Vaughan round the post.
From the resulting corner, to a reaction of wondrous disbelief, Blackpool went two up. Adam's kick was inadvertently flicked on by Nani and Campbell was waiting at the back post to nod the ball past Rafael on the line.
Adam was brilliant last night. The Blackpool fans sang his name before the game even though he had put in a transfer request the day before.
There had been suggestions that Holloway might leave him out because he had been unsettled by the transfer talk but the manager scotched those.
"If I did not play Charlie against United, he would probably kill me," the Blackpool boss said, "literally."
United's midfielders could not get near Adam. He nutmegged Fletcher, passed superbly and ran rings round Scholes. "You can stick your £4 million up your a**e," the Blackpool fans sang.
Another sublime 40-yard pass from Adam set Varney free down the left at the start of the second half and when Varney tumbled in the box under the challenge of Rafael, it seemed Blackpool might be about to go three up but the referee waved the penalty claims away.
Giggs changed the match, though, and United finally forged their first significant chance of the night 20 minutes from the end.
Scholes drifted a lovely pass over the top of the Blackpool defence and substitute Hernandez beat the offside trap, only to see his shot half-blocked by Kingson then cleared by Cathcart.
But United dragged themselves back into the game a minute later. Fletcher drilled a pass from Nani across the box and Berbatov steered it into the net. It was his 19th goal of the season.
Blackpool had barely had time to absorb the setback before United drew level. Within a minute of their first, Hernandez beat offside again, running on to a Giggs pass and rifling United's equaliser past Kingson.
It was all United now and three minutes from time, the inevitable happened. Berbatov ran on to another incisive pass from Scholes and clipped the ball home.
United's grip on the title is getting stronger. Blackpool, for all their excellence last night, are facing up to a future without Adam and the task of ensuring that a magnificent season does not end in a fight against relegation.