If the manager of the year prize was being handed out now, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson would happily hand it over to his Blackpool counterpart Ian Holloway.
The pair go head to head at Bloomfield Road tonight with Ferguson’s United aiming to go five points clear at the Barclays Premier League summit by inflicting a third defeat on the trot on Holloway’s side.
Yet even that setback would not detract from Ferguson’s admiration for Holloway, whose team are almost as entertaining as his press conferences.
“Blackpool’s form has been terrific so far,” the United said..
“At this present moment in time, they would be my team of the year and Ian Holloway would be my manager of the year.
“They are having a golden spell. They are being very positive and scoring lots of goals.
“I know they have conceded them as well but it hasn’t changed the way they have played. They have scored in every game so far and we know this will not be an easy game.”
United’s first top-flight trip to Bloomfield Road in almost 40 years has taken on even greater significance given the state of the Premier League table.
Two points ahead of Arsenal and three in front of Manchester City, a third away win of the season would ease United into a clear lead at the top and turn the screw on all their title rivals.
In addition to making a choice between Rafael and John O’Shea at right-back, Ferguson will also need to take a fitness check on Rio Ferdinand’s groin injury and the knock to an already sore ankle that Michael Carrick suffered in Saturday’s five-goal hammering of Birmingham before finalising his line-up.
Ferguson has already stated Ryan Giggs will start and then be rested for Saturday’s FA Cup tie at Southampton, and he is likely to be joined by fellow old stager Paul Scholes.
Giggs is one of those who has warmed to the manner Holloway has approached his debut campaign as a manager at the highest level.
“The manner Ian Holloway behaves transcends to the players,” he said.
“You can see that they are playing with freedom. They respect the teams they are playing against but they think they can beat them.
“That is a great thing to have. I am sure it will be the same when they are facing us.”