As the Christmas period is fast approaching, Manchester United are set to host AFC Bournemouth on Wednesday night, under the lights at Old Trafford.
A disappointing derby defeat was made even worse given the reports of post match bust-ups for Jose Mourinho and Manchester United who now find themselves a whopping 11 points behind their neighbours at the summit. Not only were United beaten comprehensively for the first time since September 2016 at home—but there cannot be any more slip-ups if they are to keep at the league leaders as the season progresses.
But as Juan Mata insisted post-match, there simply is no time to reflect on and mourn the weekend’s result other than going out on Wednesday and bouncing back strongly against Bournemouth and navigating a much kinder fixture list for the rest of the year without further damage.
Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth have found a bit of stability at last to their campaign, having lost only one of their last six in the Premier League. They are also unbeaten in their last four away from home. They can take a lot of confidence from the fact they held United to a 1-1 draw on their last visit to Old Trafford. The Cherries will go into this game on the back of an away draw at Selhurst Park.
Marcos Rojo is a doubt, but Phil Jones, who returned to the bench at the weekend and Victor Lindelöf could start in a back three against Bournemouth in midweek. Paul Pogba serves the second of his three-game ban here, while Marouane Fellaini needs to be assessed prior to the game. Henrikh Mkhitaryan is expected to return to the fore after his surprising recent exile.
For the Cherries, Adam Smith returns from suspension and will likely slot back into the team at right-back. Callum Wilson will push for a start but it will be hard to deny Jermain (van Basten) Defoe after his brace at the weekend. Jordon Ibe, Marc Pugh and Harry Arter are all in line for recalls for Wednesday’s trip to Old Trafford.
AFC Bournemouth are unbeaten in their last four away matches, one short of their longest run away from home in the Premier League (five matches between January and March 2016)
Romelu Lukaku has scored five goals in four PL appearances against Bournemouth, including four in his last match against them (a 6-3 win for Everton in February).
AFC Bournemouth have scored at least once in each of their four Premier League meetings with Manchester United, making them the side the Red Devils have faced the most without keeping a clean sheet.
Anthony Martial – Manchester United
Martial has been consistently good this season—contributing to 9 goals (6 goals and 3 assists) in just 8 starts in the Premier League. He is beginning to start more games under Mourinho, who seemed to acknowledge the Frenchman’s rapid development into a well-rounded footballer. Far from the finished article, Martial is still arguably the most exciting forward at Manchester who gets people on the edge of their seats whenever he has the ball—which is exactly the type of quality they need on display after a dispiriting performance at the weekend.
Callum Wilson – AFC Bournemouth
Bournemouth have got the perfect blend of forwards—the youthful exuberance of Callum Wilson to go with and supplement the experienced fox in the box Jermain Defoe, the type of player who could unsettle any back four with clever movement and precise finishing. Wilson is the top scorer at Bournemouth and their focal point when fit. His nous for being at the right place at the right time also sets him up as a perfect threat to a United side that is hurting after their recent defeat.
A routine win for the home side—devoid of any drama.
Manchester United 2-0 AFC Bournemouth