Rooney makes his 300th appearance for the club tomorrow evening, as Manchester United pay a visit to Bloomfield Road and a Blackpool side which has taken the Premiership by storm this season, but has recently suffered consecutive league defeats. After the mauling of Birmingham at the weekend, Man United finally look to be hitting a run of good form, which could be ominous for the Tangerines as Fergie perhaps starts to dream of becoming “invincible”.
Rafael is available again after a one-match suspension, but Fergie may be tempted to stick with O’Shea at right-back given the home-side’s penchant for hitting long diagonal balls into the final third (particularly to Varney) and seeking to feed off the scraps, with Grandin, Campbell and Taylor-Fletcher asked to support the left of field attack. It is no secret that Holloway prefers to attack (with memories of his Bristol Rovers days) regardless of the opposition, with his preferred formation a variation of a 4-3-3 application (usually 4-1-2-3) and instructing the fullbacks to stay wide and to join the midfield when they attack – much like the Parker-Irwin combination of old!
Having said that, I fully expect Adam (if he starts following his transfer request) to sit in with Vaughan, adopting a deep-lying playmaker position which will not only allow him to make the crisply hit diagonals as above, but also give Holloway the option of forming a back three in effect when their full-backs are joining the attack – much in the same way that Busquets has adapted to Barca’s high-line this season and last. With Vaughan very much the Fletcher of the team, tackling and passing with equal aplomb; Adam with striking similarities to the much unloved Michael Carrick, then Grandin has the finesse of Scholes, and will demand the ball higher up the pitch and work across it in support of the much improved Campbell – something United should be wary of, particularly in the absence of Carrick.
With Blackpool seeking to make the pitch as wide as possible then – and if Varney and Taylor-Fletcher fail to adopt narrow defensive positions when not in possession – United can seek to ruthlessly exploit the 4-3-3 system, with Giggs and Nani able to join Berbatov and Rooney from wide on the counter-attack. Baptiste is a likely starter in the absence of Crainey, and depending on which side he will begin, United’s wingers will look to get at the match-rusty fullback at every opportunity. Anderson, who has looked bright once again in the games at Spurs and versus Birmingham, should be selected in partnership with Fletcher providing the energy and drive, as well as direct running. Anderson will commit defenders, and is likely to create a situation of 4 on 4 at times going forward for United, in what should be an open game.
Blackpool central midfield pairing keeping vital possession (click to enlarge)
Credit: Guardian Chalkboard
Fletcher should get the nod ahead of the Scholes (who can’t be fully match-fit, and who could be useful later on in the game) for his ability to “mix it up” despite suffering a slight dip in form of late; He will be asked to work in tandem with Anderson (and Rooney at times) to stop Blackpool’s creative outlets at their initiation – As the chalkboard demonstrates, both Vaughan and Adam have the ability to keep vital possession of the ball, just as comfortable with the short game as they are with the raking cross-field passes. Giggs, taken off after an hour on Saturday, should start after rolling back the years with a wonderful attacking performance versus the Brummies, and it will be important for the Welshman to adopt a central position at times; without the ball in ensuring a 3 on 3 in central midfield, but crucially bringing the ball inside when in possession, allowing Evra to overlap and join the attack.
Rio will have a late fitness test, but it is likely that Fergie will not want to risk the England captain, especially given the form of the ever-improving Smalling whenever he has been asked to deputise. Whichever centre half starts, it is important that they provide aerial cover in the central right area of the field, much in the same way that Vidic will support Evra with the threat of the long diagonal to the opposite flank.
Rooney 1st half masterclass in passing v Birmingham (click to enlarge)
Credit: Guardian Chalkboard
With Berbatov and Rooney seemingly telepathic of late – and playing a reversal of the roles from last season (seek chalkboard) which saw the former create the most goal-scoring opportunities by any player in the league, and the latter score the most goals – United should have too much for Blackpool on the counter, despite their fantastic home form.
Referee: Peter Walton – Only refereed United once this season, in the 2-2 draw at Craven Cottage, correctly awarding United a penalty which Nani went on to miss.
Highlights: Bravely sticking to the rules and directives from above in awarding Piquionne a second yellow card (and thus a red) for celebrating, an albeit emotional goal.
Lowlights: Harshly sending off (second yellow) Anichebe in the game at Manchester City for a slightly late challenge on Silva when perhaps a talking too would have sufficed.
Prediction: Despite one or two defensive changes expected, United should have enough to make it 4 shut-outs in a row; Im going for Rooney first goal in a 3-0 win; Whilst backing Berbatov or Rooney to score at any time in the game at 2/1 seems to be charity quite frankly.
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