Manchester United are returning to Premier League action for the first time since their EFL Cup triumph and there should be a jubilant atmosphere at Old Trafford to greet them. During recent weeks, Liverpool have dropped points and there is an opportunity for United to put the pressure on them and Arsenal before the late game on Saturday. Those that have watched a lot of Jose Mourinho’s side in recent months will consider them as serious contenders for a top four finish. For them to achieve that, it is crucial that they beat teams like Bournemouth from now until the end of the season.
Although Mourinho will be somewhat disappointed by his team’s league position until now, he will be delighted by his team’s performances and will have faith that they can finish the season strongly. The EFL Cup success should increase the hunger in the squad as they have now had a taste of silverware. United are developing into an excellent cup team, currently holding both domestic cup competitions, but their supporters will now want to do better in the Premier League. It always going to be difficult for them to challenge for the title this season as it is a year of transition. However, Champions League qualification is expected.
Bournemouth are fighting a battle to stay in the Premier League given their recent form. The Cherries are now only four points above the relegation zone and a defeat this weekend could see them fall as low as 16th if other results don’t go their way. They are currently on a winless streak of seven matches and concern is growing among the supporters. They have overachieved to get into the Premier League and fans need to remember that. Eddie Howe deserves time to turn it around and I expect him to get it. It will be difficult for them to secure a positive result at Old Trafford, but a strong performance is required.
During the earlier meeting of the two clubs this season, Manchester United ran out 3-1 winners on the first day of the season, with goals from Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Meanwhile, Adam Smith netted for the home side. Meanwhile, the scoreline was the same in the corresponding match last season, with the United goals being scored by Rooney, Marcus Rashford and Ashley Young. The Bournemouth goal that day was an own goal from Chris Smalling.
- Jose Mourinho has now won four League Cups, with puts him as the most successful manager in the competition’s history, alongside Sir Alex Ferguson and Brian Clough.
- Ryan Fraser has won four penalties this season, which is more than any other player in the league.
The Swede has been one of the best signings in Premier League history and he will be keen to push on from his EFL Cup success to carry United to a top four finish. He is a world class player and it is crucial that Manchester United are playing in the Champions League next season if they are to convince Ibrahimovic to remain at the club. Considering the doubts that the English media have always held regarding the 35-year-old, it has been great to see him emerge as one of the best players in the Premier League at his age. It is scary to think what the striker could have done in this country during his prime. He currently has 15 goals and four assists in the Premier League. This is a remarkable return for a player of his age and he will be desperate to finish the season as the league’s top scorer. United are favourites this weekend and there will be chances created for their leading scorer. If he has a good game, then it should be a comfortable victory for the Red Devils.
The former Manchester United youth player has been a huge success since joining Bournemouth and he is now starting to establish himself as the club’s first choice striker. He is capable of playing on either wing, but he is at his strongest in central areas, as this gives him more license to get into goal-scoring positions. The 25-year-old will be desperate to play well at Old Trafford and he has a major part to play as Bournemouth try to escape the relegation battle. He has seven goals this season and he will be confident of adding to that over the coming weeks. King displays good movement and often finds pockets of space in the final third, while his finishing is another strong part of his game. In his last five matches, he has scored four goals and it is important that he takes any chance that comes his way this weekend. It will be difficult for the Cherries to secure a result at Old Trafford, but if they are to do so, they need King to be on good form.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Phil Jones are both doubts for this weekend. Michael Carrick could be in line for a recall after starting from the bench in the EFL Cup final.
Jordon Ibe and Simon Francis are facing a battle to be fit for this weekend, while Adam Federici and Callum Wilson are expected to miss out.
Despite Manchester United dropping points at home on numerous occasions this season, I expect them to beat Bournemouth this weekend and send a statement out to the rest of the top six early. They have been excellent in the attacking half in recent months and they will have too much for the second worst defence in the league. United may have been outplayed for periods against Southampton, but their winning mentality came to the fore and it is difficult to see Bournemouth causing them similar problems this weekend. The Cherries need to ensure that they deliver a good performance at the very least, as relegation is a huge possibility if things don’t improve soon.