I’m The Boss: Manchester United vs. Bournemouth (Premier League, 13-12-2017)

“After the Lord Mayor’s Show”…. Eddie Howe brings his Bournemouth team to Old Trafford this evening for a game which now feels like the first of many we need to win to simply have the ‘honour’ of finishing runners-up behind our “noisy neighbours” following Sunday’s very poor defeat. I imagine it can’t have been easy to get motivated over the past few days for some of the players, but they get well paid to represent our Club on the pitch, and a good performance and result this evening are the least they owe after so many below-par showings against Manchester City.

I don’t want to dwell on Sunday any longer, it has been well documented and discussed elsewhere on the site, but safe to say I expect a MUCH brighter performance from all in red shirts this evening, and if we have any pretensions of staying ahead of the chasing pack behind us, nothing less than a victory will suffice against a Cherries side that have struggled for consistently good form all season so far.

With that in mind, here is my team selection for this game: (3-4-1-2)

GK: David de Gea – I felt sorry for David on Sunday, a ‘winner’ who was left exposed by the slack marking and poor defending of those in front of him for both of City’s goals. He produced a wonderful save low to his right to prevent Kevin de Bruyne stretching the visitors’ advantage with the score at 1-2. Once again he will take some beating for Jermain Defoe, Josh King and company.

CBs: Victor Lindelof, Chris Smalling & Phil Jones– with Eric Bailly not yet match-fit, I’d go with the three-at-the-back system that Jose had been using prior to Sunday, when his decision to revert to a flat back four was a poor one in my opinion. Phil Jones was an unused substitute on Sunday, so should be fit for a recall this evening, and I’d bring in him in place of Marcos Rojo, who had to leave the Derby at half-time with slight concussion after a clash of heads with David Silva. They will need to be alert for the pace and movement of Defoe, and strength of King and Callum Wilson but I expect them to stand up and win their battles.

RWB: Antonio Valencia – Tony was quiet against City, and never really got forward to any great effect at all. I’d hope for much more this evening from him as I expect United to see the majority of ball possession.

LWB: Ashley Young- Ashley was one of few to have a decent game against our neighbours, making a few vital last-ditch interceptions to prevent City translating their domination of possession into goals; again, like Valencia, I’d hope and expect him to be much more involved in an attacking sense this evening, and his crossing ability should worry Howe’s men.

CMs: Ander Herrera & Nemanja Matic– with Paul Pogba serving the second game of his three-match suspension this evening, this is a chance for Herrera to try to redeem himself for a fairly poor performance against City, which culminated in a booking for simulation in the area late on as United desperately sought an equaliser. Matic was subdued on Sunday as well, unable to assert any control on proceedings as City swamped us in the middle of the park, but I’d expect him to be much more active this evening, an authority out there. They will come up against honest grafters like Harry Arter and Andrew Surman, battles they need to win.

AM (C): Jesse Lingard– Jesse, as usual, ran his heart out against City, but largely to no avail, and he had few opportunities to contribute in an attacking sense as he did at Watford and Arsenal. Tonight should be much different, with United likely to have the lion’s share of possession, and he needs to show what he can do, as Juan Mata looked good in his cameo appearance in the final minutes of the Derby.

CFs: Romelu Lukaku & Marcus Rashford– Lukaku has been bearing the brunt of some fans’ frustrations since Sunday evening, though in my opinion that is a harsh judgement on the boy. In reality, he had only one chance to score on Sunday, a chance which he admittedly should have buried to snatch an undeserved draw for United, but it was a tough afternoon for the Belgian, stranded up front against two City centre-halves for most of the game, his nearest team-mate at least 30 yards away most of the time. His shockingly poor clearance in his own 6-yard box effectively gifted the winning goal to Nicolas Otamendi, and that IS something he needs to improve massively on if he is to be called back to help defend opposition set-pieces. Along with Rashford, I expect Lukaku to have a much more productive evening against Bournemouth’s Nathan Ake and Steve Cook, and it would be great for his confidence if he could bag a goal or two in a home win.

BENCH: Romero, Martial, Mata, Fellaini, Rojo, Mkhitaryan, Ibrahimović.

The performance and manner of the defeat in the Derby was unacceptable for many United fans, and I hope and expect the team to show a reaction this evening against a Cherries side that have been poor defensively in many of their games this year. Eddie Howe’s men got off to a horrendous start to their Premier League campaign, but have recently looked more like the competent team that they are. Whilst this is not a game we should dismiss lightly as another easy home win (Bournemouth possess enough genuinely talented players to give anyone a game), the reality is that it NEEDS to be just that, through application of the greater abilities that our team possess.

In the line-up above, Mata could be switched for Lingard (who may be tired after his exertions against Pep Guardiola’s team), Fellaini (if fit) could come in for Herrera and Martial or Ibrahimović could start in place of either Rashford or Lukaku, though I felt Tony was subdued for long periods against City, but that may have been a result of the overly negative tactics employed by Mourinho for the game. Either way, a home victory is essential to keep us ‘ticking over’ going into the busy Christmas period, when rotation of the squad will become necessary.