Reebok Stadium, Greater Manchester
September 10, 2011; 10:30 PM IST – Live on ESPN
Premier League is set to resume after the never-ending international break, with Manchester United facing a short trip to Bolton Wanderers. This fixture has proved to be a good one for Sir Alex and his men, as they have lost only once in the last seventeen games against Bolton. However, the Trotters are a completely different outfit under Owen Coyle as they look to finally emerge from the shadow of Sam Allardyce and his methods of direct football.
Bolton made a wonderful start to the campaign as they thumped a listless QPR, away from home, on the opening day of the season to finish joint top of the table, at the end of first round of fixtures. However, they have been dragged down to earth after suffering defeats in their next two games against Man City and Liverpool. Owen Coyle will be looking to stop the slide as soon as possible, but could not have asked for a tougher fixture to do so.
Manchester United, on the other hand, have made an explosive start to the season winning all their three games including an 8-2 mauling of Arsenal at Old Trafford. Although they struggled on the opening day of the season against West Brom, they did manage to grind out a 2-1 win. Since then they have been absolutely wonderful scoring 11 goals in two games and climbing to the top of the table on goal difference. This fixture though, will not be as easy as the last two games, and hence the champions would have to dig deep in order to take all three points.
Team News and Tactical Brief
There are no new injury concerns for Owen Coyle, as all the players who were involved in the international fixtures have returned fit. Lee, who suffered a leg-break during pre-season, is expected to be out for the whole season but the good news for the manager is the recovery of Stuart Holden, who has been out since breaking his leg at Old Trafford last season. Although this game comes too soon for the US international, he is close to his return after featuring for the reserves in midweek. Sean Davies might also miss the game due to a knee injury.
With all the talk of Bolton playing attractive football, direct-play is very much an important part of their game. Although they do keep the ball on the ground a lot more, they also use the areal approach quite a lot with Kevin Davies being the focal point of their attacks. The tall striker would once again be the main weapon for the Trotters as he faces a relatively inexperienced United defence. New signing David Ngog could feature alongside the Englishman, playing off him, and ready to pick up the knock-downs made by the front-man.
Coyle will also be looking to attack from the wings as Petrov could create problems for a young Smalling, while Klasnic will look to have a go at Evra, who has been a bit off color at the start of the season. Muamba and Reo-Coker are expected to start in midfield, with the manager a bit short of options in that department. At the back, it would be the usual back four comprising Cahill, Knight, Robinson and Steinsson with Jaaskelainen guarding the goal.
Probable Starting Line-up: (4-4-2) Jaaskelainen; Steinsson, Cahill, Knight, Robinson; Klasnic, Muamba, Reo-Coker, Petrov; Ngog, Davies.
Sir Alex is also a happy manager after all his players returned from international duty unscathed. Although he does have a few injury concerns, they have eased considerably in the last couple of weeks. Darren Fletcher is now back to full fitness, after playing full 90 minutes for Scotland in both the games. Rio Ferdinand is also fully fit, after being an unused substitute against Arsenal two weeks ago. There is even more good news on the injury front for the Red Devils as Antonio Valencia returns to the squad, the Ecuadorian would most probably make the bench. There are also a few players missing, as captain Nemanja Vidic is out with a calf problem while Rafael is also out due to a dislocated shoulder. Danny Welbeck, who started the season in such a bright fashion, is also out as he has been ruled out for a month after suffering a hamstring injury in the Arsenal game. Ferguson will also have an eye on the Benfica game in midweek, as well as the Chelsea fixture next weekend and hence might make a few changes in the team.
The manager has put out the same starting eleven in the last two fixtures against Tottenham and Arsenal, achieving huge success, as his young team outplayed both their rivals from North London. However, the manager will have to make a change for this game with Welbeck ruled out due to injury, but with Chicharito likely to step in as a replacement, it might well be a problem for Owen Coyle rather than his counterpart. The Mexican, who was a sensation last season, is now back to full fitness after suffering from concussion that ruled him out of the initial games of the campaign. He would once again be leading the line, with Wayne Rooney playing behind him and looking to exploit the spaces created by his movement.
The midfield is expected to be the same, as Cleverley and Anderson have had a rest after not being much involved with their international teams. Also, the likes of Carrick, Giggs and Fletcher are going to be important for the upcoming games and hence are not likely to start at the Reebok. However, at the back, the manager might opt to play Rio Ferdinand in place of Jonny Evans, who had a tough time against Davies in this fixture last season. Phil Jones will take his place alongside him, with Evra and Smalling completing the back four. David Gea would once again be in goal, and under the spotlight as well.
Probable Starting Line-up: (4-4-1-1) De Gea; Jones, Smalling, Ferdinand, Evra; Nani, Cleverley, Anderson, Young; Rooney; Hernandez.
Key Match Facts
1) Bolton have not drawn a game in their last 13 fixtures.
2) Man United are one short of 200 away wins in the Premier League.
3) De Gea has saved more shots (17) than any other keeper this season.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
Back to his best
Rooney has been in top form at the start of this season, very much contrary to his horrific start last term. He has not only scored five goals in three games, but also his overall play has also been of the highest quality. If Bolton have to get anything out of the game, Rooney is the man they must stop, which can be a difficult task for the best of teams.
Bolton Wanderers 1-2 Manchester United
Reebok is always a tricky place to come and it will be no different for United this time around. It will be a closely fought contest but in the end, the class of Red Devils will help them edge out the the Trotters.