Berbatov adds the final flourish to United's thrilling escape routine

Blackpool 2 Manchester United 3

Bloomfield Road

It was an extraordinary night which began with an ordinary gesture: Ian Holloway presenting Sir Alex Ferguson with a bottle of red wine "because the stuff in my office is rubbish." All part of that pre-match talk of cheap plonk and faulty boilers which, engaging as it might be, is mock humility delivered with the very deliberate purpose of making Premier League grandees believe that Bloomfield Road is a stroll by the seaside.

Humility? This was so very nearly a humiliation for United, though the legendary powers of recovery they displayed to win a game in which they trailed 2-0 with a mere 18 minutes to go sent a more decisive message of intent about their title pretensions than any rout might do. Ferguson played a huge part – introducing Ryan Giggs after the break and watching him transform the match utterly – and referee Peter Walton had a debatable part. Luke Varney might have been awarded a penalty to send Blackpool 3-0 up five minutes into the second half.

But you make your luck: three goals in 16 minutes tells an undisputable story. By the end, when United – 28 league games unbeaten now – cut loose against a Blackpool side who don't always go the distance, you could only marvel at the predictability of the mayhem. Two season ago, it was an identical winning scoreline when they came from behind, against Aston Villa at Old Trafford, which helped preserve the title. This time, United were recovering from a first half "battering", as their manager put it. If his side – five points clear of Arsenal at the top today – do take the symbolic 19th championship in May then their extraordinary winter's night on the Fylde coast is the one that will be remembered and replayed.

It might also always be the testament to the talent of Blackpool's one-time captain Charlie Adam. Holloway re-opened a new flank in the controversy surrounding him last night by attacking the Villa manager Gérard Houllier for professing an interest in the midfielder and Ferguson spiced the pot when he mischievously remarked of the Scot's contribution: "We couldn't handle Charlie Adam – his corner kicks are worth £10m." If that was a gentle effort to relieve Liverpool, who are yet to improve on their £4m bid for Adam, of a more substantial sum of money, then the player had already saved him the trouble.

From the front cover of the match programme to the three-page feature inside, which proclaimed someone who just "wants to play football whenever he can," the 25-year-old was not hiding from anyone after placing a transfer request on Monday. Holloway had said this was the night for Adam to demonstrate that Liverpool's really was a derisory offer and effectively play himself into the move which Blackpool – for all their protestations – want to profit from. He did not let his manager down. There are not many midfielders in the Premier League who flick a ball through Darren Fletcher's legs and over his head in the space of 10 minutes but Adam did. He looked like an £8m acquisition. "The crosses coming in were rockets, particularly from Adam and we found it difficult to handle," Ferguson admitted. Adam's assured left foot inevitably delivered the two goals which exposed a defensive frailty which United thought they had put in the past.

Fletcher, for whom this was not the best night, was culpable when Craig Cathcart came running in to crash in the first of them, from the 15th minute Adam corner which had just floated over Wayne Rooney's head. Rich compensation after Ferguson's decision to release Cathcart this summer.

Adam had just collected a ball just inside his box, exchanged passes and curled a cross which Nemanja Vidic nearly headed past his own goalkeeper when his second significant corner-kick was inadvertently headed back by Darron Gibson to DJ Campbell who was left free to head in. Rafael da Silva, covering on the post, allowed it to deflect in off.

Ferguson suggested later that complacency might have played its part – "I'm just wondering if they were a bit over-confident before the game and they got a rude awakening of course" – and also cited a "lively pitch." His opening formation, with Rooney isolated wide on the left, did not help. The striker may face a fight for his place before the season is out. It was the introduction of Giggs which finally introduced some composure and balance to a midfield in which no United player had flourished.

There were some nascent United hopes when, after Rooney had made way for Javier Hernandez just past the hour, Paul Scholes' strike was uneasily saved by Richard Kingson, though Hernandez's mishit with Kingson at his mercy gave their night an ominous feel. But it was a minute after that miss that Fletcher received Nani's reverse pass and crossed from the left for Dimitar Berbatov, who looked fractionally offside as he turned the ball in. Blackpool had not even steadied themselves before Hernandez had the ball in again, turning in Giggs' immaculate ball from the opposite flank this time. Berbatov finished it off two minutes from time, taking Scholes' long ball on his right foot and firing home with his left.

There could actually have been more for United and Holloway was left nursing an almighty sense of frustration. "I'm gutted devastated and I will be waking up feeling like I have been kicked somewhere very delicate," he said

Ferguson, whose right back Rafael was treated in hospital for concussion, knew the significance of the occasion. "It is a results industry and we got a really big result today which may have a big impact on the league at the end of the season," he said. "You can never say never because this club never gives in – the history tells you that. And that is why the history is so great." By the look of near disbelief on Ferguson's face as the whistle sounded he would have taken any cheap wine Holloway happened to place in front of him.

Blackpool (4-4-2): Kingson; Eardley, Cathcart, Evatt, Baptiste; Taylor-Fletcher (Harewood, 74), Vaughan, Adam, Varney (Phillips, 68); Grandin, Campbell. Substitutes not used Rachubka (gk), Southern, Ormerod, Sylvestre, Edwards.

Manchester United (4-2-3-1): Van der Sar, Rafael (Anderson, 80), Smalling, Vidic, Evra; Scholes, Gibson (Giggs, 46); Nani, Fletcher, Rooney (Hernandez, 66); Berbatov. Substitutes not used Owen, Fabio, Evans, Lindegaard (gk).

Man of the match Giggs.

Match rating 9/10.

Referee P Walton (Northants).

Attendance 15,574.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders