Blackpool were relegated at Old Trafford after an adventurous performance ended in Manchester United rallying from 2-1 down to win 4-2
Afternoon all: It's down to the last day and Blackpool, while not having their fate in their own hands, have their best chance of survival by beating Manchester United at Old Trafford for the first time in 49 years. That 1-0 victory in January 1962 was achieved courtesy of a goal from Peter Hauser. Sadly the Guardian did not report the match, saving its analysis to one line in the weekend round up that pointed out that United were up against it before kick-off when David Herd injured himself in the warm-up but still had to play and hobbled around for 90 minutes. I can't find the Blackpool side from that day online, once again making me curse the vogue for storing reference books in hard to find locations and relying on the net instead, but United had Johnny Giles and Bobby Charlton on the wings, Nobby Lawton up front and Shay Brennan and Tony Dunne at full-back. Predicting how Blackpool will approach this match has had me in several minds over the past couple of days. The skilful midfielders David Vaughan and Charlie Adam will be crucial and no doubt Dudley "DJ" Campbell will be trying to pull Manchester United's centre-halves out of position. The only team news so far is a PA snap saying this about United: "Skipper Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra, Nani and Golden Boot contender Dimitar Berbatov were all included, while Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney were on an exceptionally strong bench." Full team news to follow.
Manchester United: Van der Sar; Rafael, Vidic, Evans, Evra; Anderson, Scholes, Fletcher; Nani, Berbatov, Park.
Substitutes: Lindegaard, Ferdinand, Smalling, Valencia, Gibson, Owen, Rooney
Blackpool: Gilks; Baptiste, Eardley, Evatt, Crainey; Southern, Adam, Vaughan; Taylor-Fletcher, Campbell, Puncheon.
Substitutes: Kingson, Cathcart, Phillips, Harewood, Ormerod, Varney, Beattie.
Referee: Mike Dean
A nigh-on impossible job: That's Graeme Souness's view of Blackpool's chances today. Ian Holloway has picked the players he trusts and has packed the bench with strikers, with Marlon Harewood back in the fold after starting the season so well and then drifting off on loan. It's going to be an open game, according to the pundits, as that's the only way Blackpool know how to play. Ian Holloway says the only plan is "win", "impose our game if it's at all possible" and take "mathematics" out of the equation (ho! ho!). Is he going to skip across the Old Trafford turf? I can't see it myself but with goal difference the way it is, he may be skipping once the mathematics have been done, which may take some time.
Sound the trumpets: The Manchester United Calypso fades out over the PA, out come Blackpool first to form a guard of honour for the champions and a fanfare rings out. Anxious faces among the Blackpool fans are picked out by the Sky cameras as usual on the last day of the season. Tangerine face paint and curly wigs frame the strained faces in rather comic fashion. Over on Sabotage Times, a Blackpool fan predicts a 3-3 in an engaging round-up of their season.
Captaincy news: Edwin van der Sar has the armband. You old romantic, Fergie.
1 min: United kick off and Paul Scholes is dispossessed having dawdled on the ball. Campbell plays a fine reverse pass into Charlie Adam on the left and he drags the ball back into the box from a yard in front of the touchline straight to Southern who has a great opportunity to score but he skews a weak shot wide. Oh dear. That was almost the perfect start.
3 min: Thanks for telling me the identities of the players in the Twitter storm. I know. We all know. But I'm not going to publish any of them. I don't like porridge. United pass around midfield for half a minute and then Park plays a pass through the middle for Nani whose touch takes him wide on the left. He works it back into the centre where Rafael smashes a volley straight at Gilks.
5 min: Vaughan now plays a good pass, clipping it with his left foot from the centre circle to Crainey overlapping and clear up that wing. His cross into the box is knocked out for a corner. The corner is cleared but Adam robs Nani, possibly after a shove, but play continues and he hits a low cross across the six-yard box and Taylor-Fletcher just misses getting his toe on it. Just as they said before, this is a hell of an open game.
7 min: United almost score this time. Scholes knocks it into Fletcher's feet and the Scot chips a pass to Berbatov in the box. He swivels to make an angle, makes Baptiste fall on the grass by his quick movement and shoots low at Gilks who parries it into the centre of the six-yard box with the goal unguarded but Crainey races back to whack it into touch.
10 min: James Galloway has a thought: "My prediction for the game: Blackpool batter away at United all game, but ultimately lose 1-0 thanks to a soft Berbatov goal. Those couple of early chances will come back to haunt them." They were excellent chances both, James.
12 min: Park and Evra combine wide on the left, Park having used the very rare technique of trapping and controlling the ball with his face. The cross is blocked but the two of them do work very well together.
14 min: Anderson now shows off his control, the ball seemingly skipping away from him with a heavyish first touch but he gets it back well and taps it to Scholes who knocks a 40-yard pass out to the right flank but it just skips out of play.
16 min: I've had an email from Oskar Kostecki, pointing out his photography project on post World Cup South Africa. Here it is if you're interested. I only had a brief look but it looks to cover an important topic that may have slipped beneath our radar.
18 min: Blackpool win a free-kick when Vaughan turns and is brought down, thirty yards or morefrom goal. Adam takes it with his left foot. It's a training ground move, he pushes it to the right of the wall to Southern, who is supposed to play a one-two with Adam but has to go wide when Scholes reads it and tracks back to squeeze out that option.
GOAL!! Manchester United 1-0 Blackpool (Park) Excellent 40-yard crossfield pass from Fletcher to Berbatov who lays it straight into the path of the onrushing Park. Evatt just has the lead in the race but slips as Park bustles past him on a diagonal run and chips it over the diving Gilks. Lovely move.
23 min: But Blackpool are straight back up and at them with Taylor-Fletcher finding space on the left when a clever ball from Crainey splits Rafael and Vidic. He aims for Campbell at the near post but the angle is too tight and he can't get the power or lift to find him. He should have gone for Puncheon at the back post.
26 min: Adam Walker would like to point out to James Galloway: "United have been far from battered by Blackpool, United have had over 65% possession!" And James Galloway addresses his earlier email himself: "Hmmm. Did I say Berbatov? I meant Park. Nice finish, too. And did I say batter? I meant surrender meekly." United have a corner after another fast break, zipping the ball forward. Nani takes it to the near post where Berbatov sneaks away from his marker to try and turn it in on the volley but Blackpool block and regroup after the second corner.
29 min: Taylor-Fletcher again has a good touch on the left, holding the ball off Rafael well but Blackpool go backwards when he lays it infield. Gilks eventually knocks it up for him again and this time he beats Rafael in the air. The move breaks down again but United sloppily give the ball back and Adam, seeing Van de Sar off his line, tries a 45-yard chip that sails miles wide.
31 min: Berbatov has a shot inside the box, set up by Rafael that is blocked by Gilks and then Southern but the rebound skews out to Park who falls. Shouts for a penalty. The replay shows his legs were taken before the ball.
33 min: With the scores as they are Blackpool and Wigan are down. Even a point if things stand would not save Blackpool.
35 min: United corner after Puncheon and Berbatov chase the ball into the Blackpool box and Berbatov shoulders Puncheon and the ball squirms out. Anderson has an effort from the corner but I missed the outcome, other than knowing he didn't score, as I was checking on Stoke v Wigan. Sorry.
38min: Taylor-Fletcher fouls Vidic 10 yards from the box. Evans takes the free kick and gives away possession which allows Puncheon to have a run at Evra who is out of position but Vidic runs over to cover and blocks when Puncheon stalls as he goes too far on his run to have the option of laying it off.
GOAL!! Manchester United 1-1 Blackpool (Adam) Free kick, five yards out of the box, dead central and Adam smashes it over the wall, clips the inside of Van der Sar's left post and it goes in. That does, according to Sky, move them out of the putative relegation zone. I must have been wrong earlier or something's changed elsewhere.
43 min: Thanks to Adam Walker for filling in the Anderson chance I missed: "Anderson's effort … genuinely hit the corner flag. I love Anderson, he is one of the few central cids who can beat people in the middle of the park, and his passing is great.
But HOW can anyone be so bad at shooting?!" Adam whacks a 50-yard pass up to the outside left position where it's Puncheon v Park. Park wins the header but it looks as though it will drop short of Van der Sar just outside the box and Puncheon is storming towards the ball but Van der Sar sprints out and clears. He's still got the legs.
45min: Dia Majadli says there are problems with the mobile site. I'll tell the techies. Sorry if it's dawdling.
45 min+2 That's half-time, a second after Park's shot from the angle of the 18-yard box was blocked. Blackburn are three up at Wolves which would save Blackpool on goal difference and send the Wolves down. All to play for. Back in 10 minutes.
Half time: That's a crazy scoreline at Molineux. I would never have thought that they'd be three down at the break. Talk about squeaky time for Mick. Ryan Dunne has a conspiracy theory: "Is it just me, or is it obvious that Lord Ferg is playing such a strong team as he doesn't want Carlos Tevez to top the scorers chart, and putting out a decent first XI is more goal conducive than Berbatov plus 10 youth-teamers? Nobody holds a grudge like Fergie."
Substitution for Manchester United: Smalling on for Rafael.
46 min: Blackpool kick off. I wonder if Smalling's come on because Taylor-Fletcher has beaten Rafael in the air three or four times. A long crossfield ball up the right from Crainey towards Puncheon who seems to have been fouled by Evra but Mike Dean doesn't give a free kick.
47 min: Vidic gives away a free kick with a barge in Adam territory just outside the box, this time to the left of centre. He spanks it wide of the wall but Van der Sar gets over to bash it away and over with his palms. (Not plams or plums, ouch)
49 min: A pair of corners for Blackpool, Adam takes them both, the second to Puncheon who plays it back but Smalling heads out Adam's cross. Then from the third Eardley hits a fine teasing cross. Now Blues are 1-0 down at Spurs so Wolves and Blackpool are safe fro now.
50 min: There's a break while Evra gets treatment on his ankle after a challenge with Puncheon. It wasn't a foul, he just landed awkwardly. He's OK.
53 min: Blackpool keep the ball for a minute, passing it around the back and then to Gilks who launches it forward. Difficult to know if it would suit them ir if they're capable of playing out for a draw. They seem less urgent at the moment. United now come forward through Park and Scholes but Blackpool keep their shape.
55 min: United corner headed over by Berbatov, a free header, middle of the goal. The corner came after Evra stood up a cross from the left and Evatt got back to nod over the bar.
GOAL!! Manchester United 1-2 Blackpool (Taylor-Fletcher) What a goal. Adam won the ball in an aerial challenge, Vaughan picked up the ball when it fell to earth and went forward. He was fouled when running forward but stayed on his feet, slipped it out to Puncheon who cleverly flicked it to the outside right position and the cross found Taylor-Fletcher who slotted it in across Van der Sar's goal, in off the post.
58 min: Michael Owen is warming up on the touchline. Ray Wilkins fears that Blackpool may have poked a stick into the tiger's cage and United will roar back at them. "Heavy defending" is on their agenda now, apparently.
60min: Scholes chips a pass 20 yards trying to find Berbatov but Gilks gets his drift and sprints out to catch it.
GOAL!! Manchester United 2-2 Blackpool (Anderson) Excellent finish from the Brazilian after he had helped the ball out to Park on the left. He ran at Eardley who laboured jockeying backwards, opening up the space for Park to cut it back to Anderson to the left of the penalty spot and he steered it first time into the left corner of Gilks's goal.
65 min: Owen's come on for Park but he hadn't had a touch when Scholes belted a shot towards goal that was blocked. It was the rebound after Gilks had made a fine save to scoop away Berbatov's header with his right hand. Twenty seconds later Adam has a shot that he spoons over.
67 min: Scholes again does his party-piece 30-yard crossfield pass to Evra on the left but Blackpool deal well with his cross.
69 min: Owen is booked fro a late challenge on Adam. Studs up. The ball skipped away when he trapped it and he tried to recover.
71 min: As things stand, Birmingham and Wigan are down but another goal for United would put Blackpool in peril. Nani's now playing on the left and Owen wandering about but largely on the right. Anderson tried to feed a short pass from the edge of the box into Berbatov's feet but Evatt read it and cleared.
72 min: United free kick after Taylor-Fletcher pulled Nani's arm. Wide left of the box. he rolls it across to Scholes who shoots but three Blackpool players come sliding out to block. The ball goes out to the right of the Blackpool area and the cross is hit to the far post where Vidic knocks it back and the ball pinballs around the box with an own goal possible but Blackpool get some luck and they get away. Seconds later Nani comically skews a header wide – comically in that it almost went out for a throw.
GOAL!! Manchester United 3-2 Blackpool (Evatt og) From heaven to hell in 20 minutes. The ball came in from the left, a rather tame cross, and Evatt tried to clear with his right foot, couldn't get his body around and sliced it past Gilks. Now they're back in the bottom two. He should have hit it with his other foot.
76 min: Blackpool subs, Phillips and Varney on for Taylor-Fletcher and Puncheon.
78 min: Is that Blackpool's "poor lad" moment? He almost had the chance to equalise, the ball skipped away from him as he burst into the box, he still got his toe on it but Van der Sar blocked. Adam Hirst has a lexiconical point of order: "That Evatt own goal is a perfect example of a Riise. When a professional footballer can't even kick a ball with his wrong foot so he chooses to do something stupid instead. The cross came in, and instead of hoofing it clear with his left foot, he Riise'd it into the net with his right." Birmingham have equalised, Wigan are ahead. Blackpool and Wolves down at the moment.
Manchester United 4-2 Blackpool (Owen) Wonderful finish, steered around the keeper with great confidence and technique. Blackpool, chasing the game, had left a lot of space and Anderson exploited it when Owen moved into the gap down the inside right channel.
84 min: Rooney on for Manchester United. Vidic off.
84 min: Vidic had been limping for the past couple of minutes and though Ferdinand was warming up, Ferguson's decided to rest him for the full 90 and switched Fletcher to right-back.
86 min: Berbatov has a shot on goal after trapping the ball on his chest when Nani stood the ball up. He swivelled to shoot as it dropped but got underneath it too much and ballooned it over.
88 min: Now Wolves are out of it on goals scored by making it 2-3 v Blackburn and Birmingham are in it.
88 min: Phillips skinned Evra down the left and his cross found Ormerod who just steered his shot wide.
90 min: Four minutes added for Blackpool to score twice. They almost conceded, however, when Owen beat Gilks to the ball by the goalline, wide of the net but the angle was too much for him to steer it in. Then Berbatov is played in for a shot from a subtle pass by Nani. He blasts it over.
90 min+2: Adam storms into the box and hits a shot with his right foot from a tight angle on the right that bobbles past the far post. If he could have hit it with his left – there was no room to change feet – he would probably have scored. Birmingham are losing at White Hart Lane, now.
Peep, peep, peep: That's Blackpool down, then. Joined by Birmingham. Not the only club to collapse since the Carling Cup final, eh? Wolves safe by a point and the skin of their teeth. Blackpool played marvellously well 15 minutes either side of half-time but the old, old failings against a United side who rallied terrifically, undid them. Sad scenes for Ian Holloway whose team have been a credit to him and shown promoted clubs that ambition can make it a season to remember even if you go down. Thanks for your emails. Bye!