The pre-match excitement was palpable; for locals this fixture, without wishing to patronise, embodies their return to the top-flight while, for United, it was one of the most eagerly-anticipated away trips of the season. The Reds began with large swathes of possession and Scholes pulling the strings in the opening ten minutes; a neat early exchange down the left between Gibson, Evra and Rooney ended with a cleverly-disguised Rooney pass and a blocked Evra cross. But it didn’t last.
The Reds’ rhythm was disrupted when Adam clattered into Patrice Evra, leaving the left-back dazed and bloodied. The Frenchman had barely returned to the field and certainly wasn't in position for a Blackpool corner that Adam swung across on 16 minutes. It was met with a thumping header from Craig Cathcart, which flew past Edwin van der Sar. It hurt more as Cathcart is an Academy graduate and former Young Player of the Year at Old Trafford, who joined the Tangerines only after a persuasive telephone call from Ian Holloway to Sir Alex.
Despite the shot in the arm for the home team, United still found space – whether created by passing and movement, or offered by an open Blackpool side – and momentarily at least upped the tempo. But there were still scares at the back, not least as Nemanja Vidic’s attempted headed clearance from Adam’s cross forced van der Sar into a reactionary save.
Sir Alex switched from a 4-3-3 formation to 4-4-2, but United’s openings were still mere half-chances. A Rafael header five minutes before the break was easily held by Richard Kingson in Blackpool's goal, while a brilliant piece of control from Berbatov was not be matched with an equally sublime finish. Blackpool looked fearless and went straight up the other end and