Old Trafford, Manchester
March 19, 2011; 8:30 P.M. IST – Live on ESPN
Bolton Wanderers visit Old Trafford in a bid to inflict a third consecutive league defeat on Sir Alex’s men. However despite the dual reversals in the league Man United are still top of the table and would be looking to consolidate their position at the fortress that is Old Trafford. With the international break on the horizon, United would do well to bring their ‘A’ game and put some breathing space between them and the chasing pack led by Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal. But the Red Devils also know that Owen Coyle’s Bolton side are no pushovers as indicated by their impressive league position. Furthermore the United squad has been severely depleted by injury, so the Trotters will fancy their chances of pulling off an upset.
Manchester United are still top of the table but are sliding fast having lost three of their five last games after having gone unbeaten until that point of the season. With Arsenal just three points behind, having played a game less, Fergie’s men need to regain their form to keep themselves on course for a record 19th title. A five match touchline ban for Sir Alex makes their job even harder as the manager will be restricted to passing instructions through Mike Phelan via his phone.
Bolton, on the other hand, have been quite the in-form side having won six of their last eight games and secured a place in the FA cup semifinal. Bolton, under Owen Coyle, seem to have finally overcome the Sam Allardyce brand of football that was associated with them even after his departure. With United looking far from convincing in the last couple of weeks and in deep injury crisis, the Trotters would be hoping to further dent their title chances.
Team News and Tactical Brief
The Red Devils are facing a deep injury crisis much like the last season when they were stripped down to bare bones. Nemanja Vidic has not recovered from his calf injury and will definitely miss the game. Injuries to Rafael and John O’ Shea in midweek and Ferdinand almost ruled out for the rest of the season, mean United have only Evra, Smalling, Brown and Fabio as the only fully fit defenders. Johnny Evans could be risked for the game as Brown and Smalling looked very susceptible agaisnt Marseille.
Paul Scholes will miss the game as he begins his two match suspension for picking up his 10th booking of the season against Arsenal last week. Darren Fletcher has not recovered from his illness while Anderson and Hargreaves are also out. Park-Ji-Sung could be in action for the first time since going away for the Asia Cup.
Wayne Rooney has been a revelation in the last two games playing off the striker. Sir Alex might opt to go with the same system once again with Rooney dropping back and making it effectively a five man midfield for United. Giggs and Carrick are likely to be in central midfield having support of Nani and the fit again Valencia on the wings. Jonny Evans’ fitness could decide the back four for United as he could take his place in the central defence with Brown shifted to the right back position. However, without Evans, the manager has to go in with his four fit defenders.
Midfielder Mark Davies is likely to miss the game after suffering an ankle injury in the FA cup game against Birmingham City last week. Also doubtful is Gretar Steinsson who was down with a virus in midweek. Bolton also have several players on the injured roster with Knight, Gardner and Ricketts missing the trip to Old Trafford.
Daniel Sturridge has been in superb form since joining Bolton in January. His exploits have pushed top scorer Johan Elmander to the right side of midfield and the Swede is expected to play in the same position. Martin Petrov has also been in good form recently and is becoming a regular starter on the left hand side. Holden and Muamba will be in central midfield.
Bolton have played good football this season but might opt for a more direct approach with Evans and Smalling likely to be the central defenders for United. The trotters also have a lot of height to trouble United from set pieces.
Key Match Facts
1) United has not lost three league games in a row since 2001.
2) Rooney has scored 98 league goals for United
3) Hernandez has scored his 10 goals from just 14 shots on target.
4) Bolton have not won an away league game in 2011.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Kevin Davies (Bolton Wanderers)
The tall striker would be relishing to play against a United side minus Ferdinand and Vidic. Bolton could use the direct approach with Davies being their point man. His ability to play on the last man is known to all and Smalling and Evans might certainly find him hard to handle.
Manchester United 2-1 Bolton Wanderers
United have not been playing well off late but they are a different proposition altogether at Old Trafford. Their defence would struggle to keep a clean sheet but they would be might disappointed if they do not grind out a much needed win.
TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST