Manchester United can make it three wins in a row under the tutelage of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer when they host Bournemouth at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Premier League action will entertain fans for the last time in 2018, as Gameweek 20 winds down on Sunday evening. The final English top-flight encounter of the year will see Manchester United welcome Bournemouth to Old Trafford, aiming to continue building momentum under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The Red Devils have been transformed ever since Solskjaer was appointed as the caretaker manager in place of the beleaguered Jose Mourinho. With the Norwegian instilling a whole lot of positivity, Manchester United have turned their form around, scoring 8 goals in their last two games. The main test though, is to sustain the level and style of play in the weeks to come.
Bournemouth, on the other hand, have tailed off after a strong start to the season. The Cherries had been one of the surprise packages in the early stages of the season, but two wins from their last nine Premier League games have seen them drop down to 12th on the table, with the big concern for Eddie Howe being the obvious struggles in front of goal.
The reverse fixture, played at the Vitality Stadium last month, saw Manchester United come from behind to win 2-1, with Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford being their goalscorers. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the Premier League encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Results are not the only antidote for Manchester United, upon the appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The injury list has trimmed considerably as well ahead of the visit of Bournemouth, with Chris Smalling the only player on the treatment table, owing to a foot injury.
However, a host of other players could miss out on Sunday, due to their bid to regain match fitness. The likes of Romelu Lukaku, Anthony Martial, Scott McTominay, Marcos Rojo and Alexis Sanchez have all returned to training in some sort of capacity, and are nearing their return to the pitch.
On Sunday, most of the aforementioned players are unlikely to start, with Solskjaer likely to afford three of them some time off the bench to continue building up their sharpness. Martial though, could start, returning to the side in place of Juan Mata, with Jesse Lingard moving to the right side of the pacy, dynamic Manchester United attack and Marcus Rashford leading the line.
The caretaker boss is likely to make two further changes to the side, with Ashley Young and Ander Herrera replacing Diogo Dalot and Fred, respectively, following the duo’s sub-par showings against Huddersfield.
The spotlight though, will once again be on Paul Pogba, who has been the clear standout following the managerial change at Old Trafford. The Frenchman will hope to pull the strings in midfield once again, while Solskjaer will hope his side can plug the holes in defence, particularly during set-piece situations.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): de Gea; Young, Jones, Lindelof, Shaw; Herrera, Matic, Pogba; Lingard, Rashford, Martial
Eddie Howe has a number of pressing injury concerns hampering his preparations for the visit to Old Trafford. Against Manchester United on Sunday, the Bournemouth boss will be without as many as four first-team players, with defence, in particular, posing a huge problem.
Club captain Simon Francis sustained what is believed to be a season-ending knee injury against Tottenham on Boxing Day. With Adam Smith already sidelined with a knee injury of his own, Howe is set to be without a natural right-back for at least six weeks.
Howe now has two options – either deploy Steve Cook at a makeshift right-back, with Tyrone Mings starting at the heart of the Bournemouth defence, or change his formation, with Ryan Fraser playing as a wing-back. We expect the latter to happen, with a back-three of Cook, Nathan Ake and Mings starting.
There are a few issues in midfield as well, with Lewis Cook a major absentee. But, Andrew Surman is a capable enough replacement, with Jefferson Lerma being his partner. Upfront, Callum Wilson is one player who needs to step up.
Meanwhile, with Fraser playing as the right wing-back, Howe is likely to deploy Joshua King and David Brooks as the two supporting players to Wilson, with the duo aiming to remain compact and exploit the half spaces behind Matic and Herrera.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Begovic; Steve Cook, Ake, Mings; Fraser, Surman, Lerma, Daniels; Brooks, King; Wilson
1. Both Teams to Score – YES @ 1.66
2. Marcus Rashford to score anytime @ 2.25
1. Correct Scoreline: Manchester United 2-1 Bournemouth @ 8.00
- Manchester United are unbeaten in each of their last six Premier League games against Bournemouth. In fact, the Cherries have never beaten United at Old Trafford in all competitions, losing six times, drawing one and scoring just two goals.
- Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is aiming to become only the third Manchester United manager to win his first three league games, emulating Sir Matt Busby and Jose Mourinho.
- Bournemouth will be hoping to avoid a club record fifth successive away defeat in the Premier League.
- The 3-1 result against Huddersfield means this is the first time that Manchester United have conceded more than 30 goals after 19 matches of a top-flight season since 1962-63.
- Romelu Lukaku has scored seven goals in six league games against Bournemouth, including six in his last three.
Player to Watch
The goals have dried up in recent weeks for Bournemouth, who have failed to find the back of the net in four of their last five outings. With Callum Wilson looking a pale shadow of himself since returning from a minor injury layoff, the onus is on Joshua King to take more responsibility in the final third.
Manchester United may be on a resurgent run, but their defence remains a major cause for concerns. And, with the hosts being heavily linked with a January move for the Norwegian, this could well be an audition ahead of a return to Old Trafford next month. For now, King’s focus remains on inspiring Bournemouth to a win against his former club.
Manchester United 3-1 Bournemouth
Judging by recent form, this game has a Manchester United win written all over it. Bournemouth’s early season form is nowhere to be seen, while the Red Devils look like one of the most exciting sides in the Premier League under the tutelage of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
But, a team of Bournemouth’s quality can burst the Manchester United bubble and bring the gloom back to Old Trafford. Having said that, the Cherries do not look like they can score many goals, if at all, and only a fragile Manchester United defence will give them a rare chance.
On the other end, the absence of Simon Francis, and a shuffle of system, could throw the Cherries’ defensive balance. And, with the likes of Rashford, Lingard, Pogba and Martial enjoying their football, it could be one way street on Sunday. The Hard Tackle predicts a 3-1 win for Manchester United.