A couple of times each season, the Premier League produces a few matches where form and rational thought are chucked out the window like a used banana peel. While a slip up from one of the league's best is usually the outcome to these such ties, Tuesday's match between Blackpool and Manchester United was only different because of the end result. I like to call these such contests 'instant classics', in that, it's immediately recognizable that what you've witnessed either live at the ground, on the tube, or later at night via dinner and DVR won't soon be forgotten.
2008-09 witnessed a midweek classic at the Emirates where an on-the-rise Tottenham fought and clawed their way back from two down to draw 4-4 against bitter foes Arsenal. David Bentley's wonder-strike from 50 yards out was the moment of the night while the look on Arsene Wenger's face when Aaron Lennon equalized in stoppage time remains an indelible moment in my mind.
While a complete list of classics would run a mile long, here are five reasons why Tuesday's clash between Blackpool and Manchester United deserves to be in consideration.
1. Blackpool's Charlie Adam- Adam has been the player most non-supporting Blackpool fans associate with the Tangerines. He's the club's best player, captain and has been in the headlines this January as sides the likes of Liverpool and Aston Villa have been sniffing around the 25-year-old Scot. Throughout Tuesday's first half, Adam was magnificent. Take your pick from a number of brilliant Adam moments:
- Adam's nutmegging of compatriot Darren Fletcher near the sideline in the first half was certainly memorable.
- Adam's service from corners. Blackpool won a number of corners in a first half they dominated while both of Blackpool's goals came from a Charlie Adam-taken corner. Adam's corners even had Sir Alex Ferguson saying, "We couldn't handle Adam, his corner kicks alone are worth £10m".
- Adam's passing from deep in midfield. Although the Scot misplaced a few attempts and was less effective in the United-dominated second half, Adam picked out a number of fine passes from midfield during the first half in hopes a ball up top to DJ Campbell or Luke Varney would unlock a United back line without Rio Ferdinand.
2. Manchester United's Ryan Giggs- Giggs started the match on the bench but was included in the XI to take the field upon the game's re-start. Darron Gibson was deemed far too ineffective moving forward in attack and was thus substituted for the Professor. Giggs was immense in attack and one of the main reasons United were able to score three second half goals to remain unbeaten and claim all three points. His determination, pace, footwork, passing and general desire to make things happen on the pitch all continue to prove the 37-year-old isn't yet finished with life as a Premier League footballer.
3. Blackpool's Richard Kingson- Anyone watching Tuesday's match knew United would make their all too familiar second half push and push they did which left Kingson in goal for Blackpool with the monumental task of keeping the league's top scoring team quiet. Kingson and Blackpool eventually crumbled under the United pressure, but it wasn't without a fight. The Ghanaian produced a number of fine second half saves to preserve Blackpool's two goal lead all the way up until the 72nd minute when Dimitar Berbatov nipped in and tapped home from close range. Just as instant classics need goals to excite, equally, they need fine saves to make those goals scored all the more incredible.
4. The Dreaded 2-0 Lead- I've read and heard many say they'd rather be up 1-0 than 2-0 which is odd in black & white but when you lend a moment of thought to it, it starts to make sense. How many times have Premier League viewers seen a side up 2-0 only to concede the first followed by a (usually very close) second? United pressed and pressed through the early moments of the second half through Giggs, Nani, Berbatov and an off form Rooney. Sensing their opener was near, United snatched the momentum from the grasp of Blackpool and never looked back. For many supporters watching from Bloomfield Road in Blackpool, a sense of dread and anxious anticipation filled their minds and hearts as the all too glaring realization set in that what was about to play out before their eyes was to be a classic United comeback. For the neutral, the 2-0 down turned into a 2-3 win embodies drama, excitement and a more realistic ideal of just how amazing the beautiful game can be.
5. The Bloomfield Road Atmosphere- Holding a maximum of 16,220 making it the league's smallest ground, Bloomfield Road produced a brilliant atmosphere for a night match on Tuesday. Blackpool's home ground truly is one of those smaller, charming English grounds where as a player, you surely must feel as if the supporters are sitting on top of you. Tangerine supporters were in good voice throughout the first half - singing for Charlie Adam to stay - and obviously roared with excitement when first Craig Cathcart headed home from a corner then DJ Campbell later doing the same. The United support, like their heroes on the pitch, refused to go quietly into the night and could be heard singing, "Giggs, Giggs will tear you apart, again" to the tune of Joy Division's Love Will Tear Us Apart.
While the five mentioned points regarding Tuesday's classic really only begin to scratch the surface, the match itself will live on and has likely gone a long way in telling Premier League fans that much more about title candidates Manchester United.
Blackpool should feel gutted about the result. They played a brilliant first half full of defensive intensity - the incessant closing down of United's midfielders and attackers - and offensive cohesion - linking attack well through midfielders Adam, David Vaughan and Eliot Grandin to attackers DJ Campbell, Gary Taylor-Fletcher and Luke Varney. Blackpool's performance should be praised but also studied by others as Blackpool seemingly ran out of steam late on after dominating large spells of the game's earlier moments.
While I still believe it's far too early for Arsenal, Manchester City or even Chelsea to concede the title to United, the Red Devils took a massive step forward with last night's comeback win away from home. Now five points clear of the Gunners, United still possess a game in hand but face Chelsea twice in the league, Manchester City at home and Arsenal and Liverpool away before they can claim their record 19th English title.