Chelsea had won convincingly 4-0 at Bolton on Monday, to continue their return to form and the top four. Arsenal were well on the way to backing up their second place in the league with a rare chance in recent years to lift some silverware. On top of that, Manchester United were two goals down at Blackpool and the unbeaten run looked to be sure to come to an end.
As well as the blow to United’s confidence, that would have left Arsenal just two points behind the leaders having played the same games, Manchester City just a point further back and Chelsea within seven points, not too far away considering they still have to play each other twice. All in all the Premier League title race was wide open again.
Not only were Manchester United 2-0 down, they were being out played by the exciting, if limited, Blackpool side. A turning point in the game was when everyone in the ground apart from referee Peter Walton saw Rafael commit a clear foul in the penalty area that may well have seen Blackpool go 3-0 up and almost certainly out of sight. Some will say United were very lucky to get away with that, others will say that they get these type of decisions too often for it to be luck.
Over the years we have come to know that writing off Sir Alex Ferguson’s team is a silly thing to do and sure enough, Berbatov pulled one back, then substitute Hernandez equalised. When many teams in the circumstances would have settled for a hard earned and slightly fortunate point, up stepped the on fire Berbatov to claim all three points and put United five points clear at the top.
Once again Sir Alex deserves credit for turning things around. Wayne Rooney had been ineffective but it was still a brave decision to take him off with twenty-four minutes remaining. He sent on Hernandez and the rest, as they say, is history.
Another good decision Fergie made was to bring on the evergreen Ryan Giggs at half time in place of Gibson. You can only guess at the rant and anger that Fergie produced at half-time after a dire first half performance from his men, but whatever he said, and the introduction of Giggs to the proceedings, had the desired effect.
The last eighteen minutes of the game were hugely unfair on a Blackpool side who have been a breath of fresh air in this season’s Premier League, but you have to think, and hope, that they have enough to stay in the league. They do need to keep Charlie Adam, who was once again superb.
Blackpool were just the latest in a very long line of teams who have suffered from Manchester United’s and their manager’s refusal to accept defeat under any circumstances. They were so poor in the first half at Blackpool that you have to think many sides would have written off the night as a disaster and scurried home in order to regroup for the next game. That is not the United way and that is why they have been champions so often and are favourites to be so again.
There were three worries for Ferguson on Tuesday. Firstly, they cannot afford to play as badly as they did in the first half again. Secondly, the form of Wayne Rooney remains a concern. He shows occasional signs of his old self, but with Hernandez making a name for himself as a goal poacher and Berbatov playing out of his skin, is there a guaranteed place in the side for him? The third worry is that once again, when in trouble, Fergie turned to Giggs. How long will he be able to do that, and just how will he ever replace him?
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I’m not sure how Giggs can be replaced. I think our best chances of filling the gap once he retires would be to buy Gareth Bale.
Buying Gareth Bale is definitely a good idea. With that being said, I don’t think we will need to fill the gap that desparately. I think we too easily forget about a certain Ji-Sung Park, who may not be a HUGE name, but his contributions are nothing short it either.