Bournemouth: Boruc, Smith, Francis, Cook, Daniels, Surman, Ritchie, Gosling, Arter, Stanislas, King
Man Utd: De Gea, Varela, McNair, Blind, Borthwick-Jackson, Schneiderlin, Carrick, Lingard, Mata, Depay, Martial
This is one of the two games that any promoted teams earmark when they arrive in the Premier League. Manchester United at home. Manchester United away. Now it is Bournemouth’s moment to shine.
Bournemouth have hardly had an easy run in the Premier League. How unlucky can one team be in terms of long term injuries is being really severely pushed as Bournemouth battle through their maiden Premier League season without Callum Wilson (striker extradionaire), Max Gradel (the flair man brought in) and Tyrone Mings (record signing). All things considered you could even perhaps allow Bournemouth’s heads to drop but this hasn’t been the case. Last weekend they recorded their first win since September at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea, but such a damning stat hardly mirrors the team’s performances. Bournemouth’s defeat too Newcastle could well of been one of the most unjust Premier League defeats in recent years and the game against Swansea certainly could of gone different if the footballing Gods had looked down a little more favourably.
Manchester United’s season reads very differently. Whilst Bournemouth have been lauded for their style, United fans are starting to show their discontent at Van Gaal’s tactics. To describe United’s attack as insipid is an understatement. 15 games played, 20 goals scored. This isn’t what United fans signed up too. They expect excitement, goals, free-flowing, counter attacking football. The antithesis of Van Gaal philosophy. This sense of disillusionment with Van Gaal has only been exacerbated with Europa League on the horizon. Van Gaal says Manchester United will be without 9 players for this game, but it is the losses at the back that could be most felt. Chris Smalling has been massively impressive this season, looking like a potential United captain, and with Smalling and Darmian joining the likes of Rojo, Shaw and Phil Jones United’s defence hardly will be one to fulfil the away support with confidence.
This game wouldn’t normally look like a fixture for goals due to both United’s defence and goal-scoring record. However much Bournemouth have looked like conceding (30 goals in 15 games is a hell of a rate to go), Manchester United look far more unlikely to score and for Van Gaal containing the likes of Stanislas, Matt Ritchie and Josh King will be of paramount importance in his pursuit for a morale boosting win. Whilst Martial will probably start up top, a backline of academy prospects isn’t one you want to be dealing with pace and creativity that Bournemouth have to offer. After watching Bournemouth’s game at the Bridge last weekend, they certainly have enough flair through the midfield to pose a real threat and their link up play left Matic and Fabregas stranded more than once in the middle of the park.
After last weekend’s performance I can’t help but fancy Bournemouth. Despite Chelsea’s failings this season, to go to the Bridge with no win in 8 and get a result really could be the break that Eddie Howe’s men need.
Prediction: Bournemouth 2-1 Manchester United