Thursday 23 March 2017

Fergie predicts plenty of goals

Simon Stone

Alex Ferguson. Photo: Getty Images
Alex Ferguson. Photo: Getty Images

Alex Ferguson has admitted he will not enjoy Manchester United's Premier League meeting with Blackpool, even though he knows there is a trophy to be collected afterwards.

Before the Red Devils are handed their record 19th title, a nervous game of survival will take place at four top-flight grounds across the country.



Blackpool find themselves in the onerous position of becoming the first team to win at Old Trafford this season, and only the second to take any points, if they are to stand the best possible chance of staying in the top flight.



And even though he is not directly affected, Ferguson is not relishing the experience.



"This game on Sunday is not the kind of game you actually enjoy," he said.



"You are talking about one point separating five teams.



"It is very tight down there and you could sense what was coming with the way the league was shaping.



"Losing a couple of games can put you right back in the mire and Sunday is going to be a very important day for the futures of these clubs, which means it is not the easiest game for me to pick a team in."



There have been veiled threats about United being fined for fielding a weakened team, with Wolves owner Steve Morgan watching the situation particularly closely, even if manager Mick McCarthy claims not to be too interested.



Ian Holloway was furious at the suggestion though, bringing with it, as it did, a feeling that in normal circumstances, Blackpool would not be able to beat United on their own ground.



Ferguson might have raised an eyebrow by granting Holloway permission to bring his team to Old Trafford in order to get used to the surroundings given most of his players have never experienced them before.



However, in confirming at least half a dozen senior figures within his squad will start, the United boss is ensuring his impartiality is not brought into question.



Among the six men he named are Edwin van der Sar, who will make his final Premier League appearance, Dimitar Berbatov, who is engaged in a head-to-head duel with Carlos Tevez for the Premier League's Golden Boot prize, and Darren Fletcher, who desperately needs competitive action to stake a claim for a place in Ferguson's Champions League final line-up.



Clearly there is plenty of incentive there. And, having found himself in this situation twice before recently, in 2007, when United lost to a Tevez-inspired West Ham on the final day, and 2009, when a team of youngsters beat Hull, Ferguson feels questions will only be asked of him should Blackpool emerge triumphant.



"If you lose a game and it affects other teams, you should be put under scrutiny," said Ferguson.



"At Hull we played all the young players but won 1-0. There was no reason to criticise the selection that time.



"When we played West Ham, Neil Warnock, for some reason, found it easy to criticise us.



"It was a bit unfair of Neil Warnock to do that. All Sheffield United needed was a draw on their own ground. And if he watched our match, we battered West Ham.



"The criticism can only be valid if you lose. On this occasion it will be the same again."



Holloway's indignation stemmed from the knowledge his team were two goals up at Bloomfield Road when they met United in January and then had a perfectly legitimate penalty claim turned down before the visitors launched one of their remarkable comebacks.



Ferguson recalls the evening clearly.



He has also kept a close eye on Blackpool's performances throughout the season.



And he knows Holloway means exactly what he says by claiming Blackpool will stick to their attacking instincts this weekend.



"We dug it out at Blackpool," said Ferguson.



"Set pieces did for us that day. Charlie Adam was hitting rockets into our box.



"We are well aware of their capabilities. They try to score goals and have a great adventure about them.



"That will be the case on Sunday.



"I am sure they will have a go and there could be a lot of goals."

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