Manchester United have surprisingly hit a run of form in the Premier League over the last few weeks. If we ignore the timid submission to Juventus at home in the Champions League, Jose Mourinho’s men have looked more assured in recent games. However, writing a preview for a Manchester United game remains tricky as ever. It is difficult to envisage what kind of side would turn up on the day. Their inconsistencies have been one of the hallmarks of the season. Reading into the statistics or analysis of their previous games sometimes make little sense as you never know.
However, whatever be the case Manchester United need to keep winning to keep their top four hopes alive. Jose Mourinho has assured that in December, his side would be in a better position in the league table or he could be sacked. But it is more likely we would see Saudi Arabia own up to their human rights issues by May than watch Mourinho’s men roar back in the title race. The pressure is on them to keep their league momentum going into the busy festive period. Yes, the end (of the year) is near.
Bournemouth Away will be tricky
Dean Court (I am not calling it the Vitality) has been a tricky ground for away teams since Bournemouth returned to the Premier League in 2015. Eddie Howe, touted as a future England manager, has turned them into a steady top tier team.
They have finished 16th, 9th and 12th in the Premier League respectively since returning to the top division. The Cherries have made another solid start to the campaign. They are currently 6th in the league and three points ahead of Manchester United in 8th.
The home side’s current form, three wins in their last four league games, means Mourinho’s side are facing a tough assignment on the road. Manchester United’s recent form also exhibits positive signs. But all the talk of a mid-season revival will encounter a stern test at Dean Court on Saturday afternoon.
Manchester United’s good recent history v Bournemouth
Manchester United lost 2-1 at Dean Court in Bournemouth’s first season back in the Premier League in 2015. However, since then, they have not lost to the Cherries.
Mourinho will have fond memories of Dean Court. His first league assignment as Manchester United manager was away to Bournemouth. The visitors coasted to a comfortable 3-1 victory. They also beat them 2-0 in April this year in front of their home fans, their last league defeat at home.
Manchester United have won four of their last six league meetings since Bournemouth’s return to the top tier of English football.
However, the Cherries have been rock steady and have not lost a game at home this season. They are unbeaten in their last six Premier League games at Den Court. Howe has also solidified their defence and they have kept a clean sheet in their last three league fixtures. If they shut out Manchester United on Saturday afternoon, it would be a record for Bournemouth in the top flight.
Can Manchester United Beat Them On Saturday? Maybe!
Again, ignoring the tepid and timid (I have run out of adjectives to describe that game) performance against Juventus, Manchester United have looked more fluent in the final third in recent games. Anthony Martial has come into his own after what seemed like ages before Mourinho finally decided to drop Alexis Sanchez in his favour. Marcus Rashford, while not scoring against Everton, offered something different to the front three last weekend. The England striker’s movement created more space for others and Manchester United looked more fluid with him leading the line than Romelu Lukaku.
However, let’s talk about Lukaku when it comes to playing against Bournemouth. The Belgian has scored six goals against the Cherries in three Premier League meetings. He netted in both the games against Howe’s side last season as well. If Lukaku is out of confidence at the moment, Bournemouth could be the side who might fill him with extra energy because of his good record against them.
But Bournemouth are not exactly clueless in attack as well. They have scored two more goals than Manchester United this season. Callum Wilson and Joshua King have formed a potent partnership up front and have nine goals between them in the league.
Wilson has provided four assists for his team-mates as well but their creative spark has emerged from Ryan Fraser. The Scottish midfielder is at the top of the assists board in the Premier League with five and remains a potent weapon in Bournemouth’s armoury.
And with Manchester United’s flaky defence, Bournemouth will get their chances to score.
Manchester United are ‘languishing’ in 8th in the Premier League at the moment and they can ill afford to drop more points, especially at Bournemouth. With the Manchester derby looming next weekend – and the small matter of Juventus in midweek – Mourinho is aware anything less than a win at Dean Court will increase the din around his future at the club.
For the moment it seems Mourinho enjoys the confidence of the Manchester United board. But they are the same people who briefed the media that they supported Louis van Gaal until they sacked him after he won the FA Cup in 2016. As long as they are within touching distance of the top four, Ed Woodward is unlikely to act.
However, in football, like politics, the winds could shift at any time. Mourinho knows it and it would require more than three-finger salutes to convince the skeptics at Old Trafford