Manchester United will be hoping to go some way towards banishing the memory of their Champions League disappointment in the week by getting the better of a buoyant Bournemouth side.
Over 30 years ago, the Cherries claimed the scalp of their visitors in the FA Cup while under the stewardship of Harry Redknapp, but last weekend’s win away to champions Chelsea prompted current boss Eddie Howe to describe it as the biggest result in the club’s history. It is hard to argue with that, especially given the state they were in just a matter of years ago, and another success here would represent another historic day for the Dean Court side.
Their success in West London was down to a heroic defensive performance, refusing to cave in despite coming under some severe pressure in the second half. Goalkeeper Artur Boruc did well when called upon, but for the most part he was given incredible protection by those in front of him, most notably from stand-in captain Simon Francis, who is excelling himself in his first top-flight campaign. That they are also out of the bottom three will provide them with another confidence boost.
Coupled with the persistent criticism of his team’s playing style, a failure to make it beyond the group stages of the Champions League has ratcheted up the pressure considerably on United manager Louis van Gaal. Now a lot will depend on how the club fare domestically, so these upcoming games take on extra importance as they enter a potentially season defining festive period. A significant reaction will be required here, and it remains to be seen how many of the starting line-up will fancy this in the wake of defeat to Wolfsburg.
They got off to the best possible start in Germany, but crucially they were not able to hold on to the lead for long and succumbed to a side which looked to be playing with real confidence. Defensively United were a huge letdown considering their fine goals against record in the Premier League, while van Gaal’s decisions to field a number of youngsters and take off Juan Mata – the only player on their side who seemed capable of making something happen – were occasionally mystifying.
Goalkeeper Adam Federici and midfielder Marc Pugh have both recovered from injury and are available for Bournemouth. Christian Atsu and Lee Tomlin need to regain their fitness before being considered for a return.
Bastian Schweinsteiger begins a three-match ban for Man Utd, who are decimated by injuries with Matteo Darmian and Chris Smalling the latest victims. Skipper Wayne Rooney, Marcos Rojo and Ander Herrera are among those who are also out.
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