Premier League: Manchester United 4-2 Blackpool
United were able to celebrate lifting the Barclays Premier League trophy in style after ruthlessly relegating battling Blackpool.
Ian Holloway's side produced a monumental effort but the Reds made a mockery of talk of fines for fielding a weakened line-up by completing a 4-2 victory after Park Ji-sung's opener was overturned by Charlie Adam and Gary Taylor-Fletcher. Anderson levelled and an Ian Evatt own goal put the Reds in front again. Michael Owen grabbed the fourth with a typically clinical finish.
In the very first minute, Paul Scholes lost possession and Adam worked his way past Jonny Evans to cross perfectly for Keith Southern, only for the midfielder to get his side-foot finish all wrong with the goal gaping.
After the early reminder of what this match meant to the visitors, United mustered a decent attempt when Rafael’s left-foot volley forced Matthew Gilks into a save but another dangerous Adam centre almost picked out Taylor-Fletcher soon afterwards.
The end-to-end opening continued with Dimitar Berbatov collecting a Darren Fletcher pass and turning Evatt with ease, only to see his shot pushed away by Gilks. The Bulgarian was heavily involved in the first goal as his prodded through ball was misjudged by Evatt and Park got goal side of the defender before expertly lofting his finish over Gilks and into the net.
The Seasiders looked to be on the ropes but Adam served notice of his threat with a cheeky long-range attempt that flew over the bar. United still looked to be in control and Berbatov spurned a chance to double the lead when firing against Gilks’ legs after more defensive hesitancy.
Adam survived a penalty shout when flooring Park inside the box and Mike Dean was also unmoved when Berbatov was barged to the deck by Alex Baptiste.
A disputed free-kick award proved the Reds’ undoing when Nemanja Vidic tangled with Taylor-Fletcher. The hosts felt offside had been given when Dean whistled but the decision went in Blackpool’s favour and Adam took full advantage. The Scotland international’s free-kick curled away from Edwin van der Sar and found the net via the Dutchman’s left-hand post.
It was the first goal the Reds have conceded at home in the first half all league season and provided Holloway’s side with a timely boost.
After Chris Smalling replaced Rafael at the break, the visitors enjoyed a good spell of pressure at the start of the second half. When Vidic was guilty of a blatant foul on the edge of the area, Adam opted for pace on this occasion and his free-kick was swatted away by Van der Sar.
There was concern for Patrice Evra when he appeared to hurt an ankle but the Frenchman was able to continue and saw Berbatov head Nani’s corner over the top.
With 57 minutes on the clock, David Vaughan broke forward and played a one-two with Jason Puncheon before crossing for Taylor-Fletcher to touch home off the far post and celebrate what looked a crucial goal in front of the away fans. The Seasiders were in dreamland but the lead only lasted five minutes. Anderson intelligently picked out Park on the left and made his way into the box to sweep home the South Korean’s accurate cross.
With Michael Owen on for Park, the Reds upped the tempo and Berbatov forced a spectacular save out of Gilks from an Evra centre with Scholes’ volleyed rebound blocked by Evatt. Although Adam advanced forward to crash a shot over the bar, the game was starting to be played deeper and deeper in the Blackpool half with the visitors defending for their lives to keep out a Scholes shot and Vidic header.
Nani really should have scored when heading a Smalling cross wastefully off target but it only proved a stay of execution as the substitute defender played the ball into the box again a couple of minutes later and Evatt, who had an afternoon to forget, turned it past Gilks for 3-2.
Evatt almost atoned by storming through at the other end, only to be denied by Van der Sar with the Dutchman making a superb, brave save on his final Premier League appearance. But United were finishing the stronger, just as they did at Bloomfield Road, and Anderson’s through ball allowed an onside Owen to sprint clear and finish emphatically to pile on the agony for the visitors.
Evans had to make one saving block but the end of the game mostly belonged to Berbatov. Desperate to win the Golden Boot outright, the Bulgarian could only find the side-netting from an angle and then flashed an acrobatic volley over the bar.
Substitute Brett Ormerod wasted an opening for Blackpool by sending a half-volley wide with Owen even closer at the other end by flashing a shot across the face of goal and Berbatov passing up a last chance of a 21st Premier League goal of the season.
There was still time for Ormerod to clip the woodwork in injury time but it wasn't enough for Blackpool, who were cruelly sent down on a dramatic final day.
Edwin Van der Sar
Every touch was applauded on an emotional farewell appearance. He had no chance with the two goals, both going in off the post, but he still pulled off one brave block from Ian Evatt that was vital in the context of this game.
Showed great technique to fire a left-foot volley goalwards and was involved in the build-up that led to a good chance for Dimitar Berbatov. Withdrawn at the interval.
Won his aerial challenges with customary relish and butted away one dangerous Gary Taylor-Fletcher cross. However, it was his foul on the Blackpool No12 that led to Charlie Adam's free-kick goal. Had a header well cleared in the opposing box before making way for Wayne Rooney late on.
Looked a little rusty when Adam tore past him in the first minute but dealt with Stephen Crainey much better moments later and went on to have a solid match at the back, including one important saving block towards the end.
Displayed nimble footwork when raiding down the left and defended with his usual aplomb, beating DJ Campbell to feed the ball back to Van der Sar on one occasison. Picked up a worrying knock to his ankle but was able to continue.
Became more of an influence as the match wore on with some teasing crosses causing problems for the visitors. Will be disappointed with a wayward header from a Chris Smalling cross but United scored from the next attack.
Showed no ill effects as he continued his comeback to full fitness. Stretching to make interceptions and passing neatly, he did pick up a booking for tugging back Keith Southern but was a calming influence in the midfield.
Lost the ball in the first minute but not too often after that early aberration as he sprayed ambitious passes around the Old Trafford pitch. Unable to grab a goal that would've brought the house down when having two thumping shots well blocked.
Not at his best in the first half but came to the fore in the second period and again showed his improved finishing with a sweeping shot past Matthew Gilks after his initial pass found Park Ji-sung in acres of space down the left. Also managed an assist when releasing Michael Owen for the fourth goal.
A bundle of energy as always, he'd already had a shot charged down when deftly finishing a Dimitar Berbatov pass for the opener. Switched wings with Nani and was unlucky not to earn a penalty when felled by David Vaughan. Created Anderson's goal before going off.
A performance that had everything but the goal that would've won him the Golden Boot outright. Forced some superb saves out of Gilks and lashed one last attempt over the top but he did supply the clever pass for the opening goal.
Chris Smalling (for Rafael, 46)
An all-action display at right-back as he got forward on a number of occasions and set up a great chance for Nani and Ian Evatt's own goal. Did his day job to good effect as well, winning a few diving headers inside his own box.
Michael Owen (for Park, 63)
A threat from the moment he entered the pitch, was there ever any doubt he was going to finish when one-on-one with Gilks?
Wayne Rooney (for Vidic, 84)
A late cameo to stretch his legs ahead of Wembley and he showed his quality without over-exerting himself.