United fight back stuns Seasiders

Manchester United recovered from a two-goal half-time deficit to beat Blackpool 3-2 and go five points clear at the Premier League summit.

Last Updated: 25/01/11 at 22:26 Post Comment

Berbatov: Celebrates his winner

Berbatov: Celebrates his winner

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At the break, on top and two goals up, it appeared Blackpool would end United's unbeaten record and achieve a result that would go down in the history books alongside the 'Matthews Final' in 1953.

But those goals from Red Devils old-boy Craig Cathcart and DJ Campbell were insufficient to resist United, who were galvanised by Ryan Giggs and Javier Hernandez.

The Mexican struck the all-important equaliser but once again it was Dimitar Berbatov who did the damage for the rampant Red Devils, tapping home his side's first 19 minutes from time before driving home his 20th goal of the season - and his fifth in four days - to send Sir Alex Ferguson's men five points clear.

The only two meetings between the pair since the day four decades ago when Jimmy Armfield retired came in the old Second Division, a time United would prefer not to be reminded of.

They will not want reminding of their first-half performance either.

Having muscled themselves into such a positive position, Sir Alex Ferguson's players knew victory in their game in hand would send them into a clear lead at the top of the table and bring that coveted record 19th championship within tantalising reach.

In his own chirpy way, Ian Holloway had done his best to play down expectations, claiming he would be happy if his side were not two goals down after 10 minutes and presenting Ferguson with his customary bottle of wine before the game.

Once the whistle went though, United were shaken out of their stride by the hosts, whose enthusiasm knows no bounds and for whom Charlie Adam, putting his transfer request and interest from Liverpool to the back of his mind, was outstanding.

It was Adam's accidental clash with Patrice Evra that forced the Frenchman off the field and meant he was out of position when he returned as the Blackpool skipper swung in his first fateful corner.

Still, there was no excuse for United's total failure to track Cathcart's run.

Tipped for big things by the Old Trafford hierarchy until injury intervened, Cathcart rose unchallenged and powered a header past a motionless Edwin van der Sar.

The veteran Dutchman was also stood still when Nemanja Vidic turned a diving header straight into his chest when he had been aiming to clear.

It was an example of the confusion within the visiting ranks.

Elliot Grandin scooped a 12-yard effort over the bar and David Vaughan brought an excellent save out of Van der Sar, which as it turned out, only staved off Blackpool's second by half a minute.

Again Adam took the corner. Dropping it into roughly the same place.

This time Darron Gibson got his head to it but only succeeded in turning it to Campbell, who bundled home at the far post to send the home supporters into delirium.

It was no surprise that Ferguson replaced Gibson with Giggs at half-time and Blackpool would have known the last time United faced such an unpromising scenario, they nearly defeated Aston Villa.

If Luke Varney had been granted the penalty he was convinced should have been awarded when Rafael sent him tumbling, Blackpool would almost certainly have avoided a similar fate.

As it was, United took inspiration from Hernandez's introduction for an out-of-sorts Wayne Rooney and the Seasiders started to get washed away by the tide of attacks.

The Mexican has come up with a few vital goals already in his debut season and he nearly had another when he streaked clear of the Blackpool defence.

But Kingson took the pace off his shot, allowing Cathcart's incredible evening to continue with a goal-line clearance.

United were on a roll though, and when Darren Fletcher crossed a couple of minutes later, Berbatov was on hand to tap United back into the contest.

Within two minutes, they had bagged another as Giggs' magnificent chip sent Hernandez streaking through.

Having let Blackpool off the hook once, the striker was not keen on doing it again and this time finished with calm assurance.

United were not finished. Even the departure of Rafael on a stretcher that required 10 minutes injury time failed to halt their momentum.

And when Scholes sprayed a magical pass to Berbatov, the Bulgarian blasted home his fifth goal in four days to seal an unlikely win.

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