Manchester United 4-2 Blackpool: United hit back as lights go out on Blackpool

Manchester United 4Park (21), Anderson (62), Evatt (74 og), Owen (81)Blackpool 2Adam (40), Taylor-Fletcher (57)

Referee: M Dean

Attendance: 75,400

Blackpool's thrilling Premier League ride ended in typical rollercoaster fashion at Old Trafford yesterday as they were relegated after throwing away a second-half lead.

Manager Ian Holloway had pledged to attack champions Manchester United. Ultimately though, it proved their undoing. After goals from Charlie Adam and Gary Taylor-Fletcher had promised to secure their top-flight status for another 12 months, Blackpool were incapable of holding on.

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That the goal which sunk them was thanks to one of their own only twisted the knife, Ian Evatt turning Chris Smalling's cross into his own net after Anderson had equalised.

Michael Owen added another before the end but by then, Blackpool were condemned.

So much happened before kick-off that the explosion of action immediately after the first whistle was merely maintaining the frenzy.

Blackpool afforded United the acclaim of walking out through a guard of honour, Sir Alex Ferguson and Nemanja Vidic collected Premier League manager and player of the year prizes and Edwin van der Sar was presented with a special prize ahead of his retirement and thoughts turned to whether Paul Scholes was following, too.

The Premier League trophy was prepared for collection at the end, and Ferguson had allayed any worries about Blackpool facing a weakened team by naming ten internationals, including Golden Boot contender Dimitar Berbatov. After taking all that in, a capacity crowd could have done with a rest.

They didn't get it.

Holloway had pledged to attack but even he could not have imagined Blackpool would have their first clear sight of the home goal after less than 30 seconds. After surging past Jonny Evans to reach the byeline, Adam pulled a superb low cross back to Keith Southern, who had a clear sight of Van der Sar's goal.

The magnitude of the opportunity got the better of him and he side-footed wide.

Within minutes, Matthew Gilks was denying Rafael at the other end, then repelling Berbatov. In between, Taylor-Fletcher just failed to turn home an Adam cross.

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The optimism Blackpool had brought with them remained until Berbatov slipped a pass through to Park midway through the half and the South Korean clipped home a first-time effort.

Gilks denied Berbatov a second, then referee Mike Dean denied United a clear penalty when Adam bundled Park over.

On such small margins do big things turn. Had United gone two in front at that point, Blackpool would surely have been buried. Instead, Vidic's foul on Taylor-Fletcher allowed Adam to step up and stroke a superb shot past Van der Sar, the Scot wheeling away in celebration after the ball flashed in off the post.

Holloway gave his interval team-talk with his side out of the drop-zone by the slimmest of margins.

Events elsewhere were starting to shape their future, but Adam so nearly gave Blackpool a push towards safety with a ferocious free-kick straight after the break, which Van der Sar shoved away with a firm one-handed save.

However, the second did come, again the ball entering United's net via a post as Taylor-Fletcher met David Vaughan's low cross with a deft flick that left Van der Sar helpless.

In a Tangerine dream world, it would have been job done. Life for the Seasiders has not been like that all season though. Anderson played a pass out wide to Park and was then on hand to belt home from 12 yards to get the visitors sweating once more.

And if Gilks had not brilliantly turned away a Berbatov header after Patrice Evra had crossed, Blackpool would have been deep in the mire once more. They clung to the life raft for another ten minutes before Evatt's catastrophic own goal.

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Almost immediately, Evatt found himself beyond the United defence, only for Van der Sar to deny the defender with a very brave save which, given he only has the Champions League final left in his career, he could have been forgiven for not making. It proved to be Blackpool's last chance as Owen strode onto Anderson's through ball to kick them back into the Championship.

Holloway took the acclaim from both sets of supporters at the final whistle but his team were down and, speaking to reporters later, the Blackpool manager aimed a parting shot at the Premier League, claiming his club were unfairly handicapped in their battle for survival. Holloway tried to raise a smile but with half a dozen key men virtually certain to leave, he could not hold back.

"The fat lady has finished singing, and I do not like the tune," he declared. "The Premier League have rung me up and said 'We really love you Ian Holloway'. But they have never helped me. It is a great league. But the people who run it shouldn't. There should be people above them telling them what to do. Nobody has to hear from me for another 12 months but hopefully I will get the chance to tell them about how they do things."

Holloway's anger stems from being told he had to tell players by the third Saturday in May whether options on their contracts were being taken up. In the instances of Richard Kingson, Marlon Harewood and Brett Ormerod, all of whom were on the bench yesterday, the answer was no. Others - Evatt and Keith Southern - are being retained but face vastly reduced terms due to Blackpool's relegation. "Ask yourself how you would have felt to be me on Monday morning," said Holloway. "The Football League give you five days after your last game. The Premier League told us we had to stick to the exact wording of the contracts.

"This was before the biggest game of my life. Surely common sense should have applied, and I could have told them afterwards."