At the end of the season the table rarely lies. Those who deserve to go down generally do. The Seasiders have been a breath of fresh air and their genial manager, Ian Holloway, a revelation on the field as well as off it. But sadly they exit the Premier League with shades of Swindon Town's one-year tenancy in the top flight in the 1993-94 season. Blackpool royally entertained us but loose defensive organisation ultimately cost them.
Blackpool displayed early confidence with their three midfielders, Charlie Adam, David Vaughan and Keith Southern, always available to receive, which they did without any panic even in very tight situations, and hitting passes confidently. Vaughan and Adam formed a left-side triangle with Stephen Crainey which worked tidily but, when Manchester United got possession off them, they exploited the over-covering of Blackpool's right-back, Neil Eardley. He was always wary of the home team exploiting the space between his centre-backs and exaggerated his cover by running too wide to help.
All season Blackpool's back four have closed space behind their midfield by pushing up. Then their excellent midfield has backed up their goalscoring forwards in similar fashion. In doing so they have left spaces behind their defence. The back four are left vulnerable to passes played over the top or through them. Without a defender of exceptional pace to counteract that tactic it has been a hard task for Holloway to repel top-class forwards.
Eardley did his best to help cover that ball hit to United's left but in doing so the home side ruthlessly exposed this area and continually hit whichever forward had attached himself to that touchline.
In the first half Park Ji-sung stayed wide and Paul Scholes and Anderson drove the ball up to him, stretching Blackpool and forcing Jason Puncheon, Southern and Eardley to expend energy covering and trying to discourage this crossfield pass (see diagram).
Nani stationed himself out on the left in the second half and ran the ball with too much time and space to pick out crosses. Blackpool needed to put more pressure on the ball but they were unable to do so.
However, it was a great effort and Holloway's men were proud footballers. They have enjoyed the ball throughout this remarkable season and did so again here. But they were still unable to defend to the standards required in this tough, unforgiving league.