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Preview: Mourinho out to improve United’s Premier League position

Manchester United v AFC Bournemouth

Premier League 2016/17

Old Trafford, Manchester

Saturday 4th March 2017, KO 12:30

Live on Sky Sports

Manchester United will go head to head with AFC Bournemouth at Old Trafford on Saturday afternoon fresh from winning the EFL Cup at Wembley on Sunday. United have had a rare rest after their congested fixture list in February, which will continue into March, throughout April and probably into May. If United are to win more trophies this season, their participation in the UEFA Europa League and the Emirates FA Cup rest on United getting through FC Rostov and Chelsea during the next fortnight, which could underline their entire season. The Premier League is still a possibility, mathematically at least, but one which may sound unlikely considering the number of matches United will contend with for the remainder of the season with matches away to both Manchester City and Southampton still left to arrange.

Jose Mourinho has the players to keep United contending for the remainder of the season, and providing they do, this will be the best season since Sir Alex Ferguson retired at the end of the 2012/13 season – the last time United won the Premier League. Against Southampton at Wembley on Sunday, United looked like a side who have had a tough spell of matches with their opposition resting on their laurels for a fortnight before the match. Southampton should have punished United, being the fresher of the two sides, but it was United who tested them to the max, finding a late goal and lifting the club, the second time Southampton had made it to the League Cup final in 37 years, losing both. United were boosted by the defeat Liverpool suffered to the fallen Premier League champions on Monday night, which could see United rise from sixth to fifth this weekend.

If Liverpool are defeated by Arsenal, which would complete their pathetic performances in 2017 where drivers using mobile phones will earn more points that Jurgen Klopp’s side have since the turn of the year. United have lost six matches all season, with Liverpool losing six this year alone. Just imagine, this is a team whose supporters have been bragging to United for much of the season with them being above them and likely to do a Leicester and win the Premier League for the first time in the clubs history. Gabrielle once sang “dreams can come true”, but in Liverpool, these dreams are more of nightmares. To the Liverpool fans saying United have not improved as they have been sixth for much of the season, enjoy being in the position you have mocked all season. You are worthy of the place, which may even get you into Europe next season, not that the extra matches will appease your manager, who has been moaning about his own fixture congestion this season, if he’s not sacked, of course.

Match Officials:

Kevin Friend will referee this match with Darren Cann and Matthew Wilkes as his assistants. The fourth official will be Lee Probert.

Form:

Manchester United: Jose Mourinho’s side are undefeated in their last eight matches in all competitions, suffering their last defeat to Hull City in the semi-final second leg of the EFL Cup, a tie they won on aggregate earning a final place against Southampton and winning at Wembley. United’s last Premier League defeat takes us back to 2016 and that fateful day at Stamford Bridge when United were destroyed by a resurgent Chelsea side. Of course, they have lost matches since with Hull City and Fenerbahce getting the advantage over Mourinho’s side, who have lost six matches all season. Liverpool have lost six matches in 2017 so far. United will be looking for an easy three points and getting that through early in the match will be a must. United need to ensure they take advantage of those teams above them, Liverpool are already in their sights, and with Arsenal and them playing each other this weekend, one of them is likely to lose, giving United the chance to increase their position in the Premier League.

AFC Bournemouth: Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth side have done well this season. They currently sit in 14th place in the league with 26 points, 14 more needed for Premier League survival, which could be easy for them to achieve. Recently, though, they have not been in good form in the league – losing four of their last five matches, drawing the fifth. Losing guarantees no points, and with points needed to achieve survival, this is where Bournemouth will need to get the better of their opposition. Back in December, Bournemouth came from 2-1, then 3-1 behind to beat Liverpool 4-3 at home, which was a great result and one which has seen United’s bitter rivals tread through broken glass ever since. Beating United will be the dream, but Mourinho needs the points more to earn UEFA Champions League football next season.

Top Scorers:

Manchester United: 26 – Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 9 – Juan Mata, 7 – Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford, 6 – Henrikh Mkhitaryan, 5 – Wayne Rooney, 4 – Jesse Lingard, 2 – Marouane Fellaini, Chris Smalling, 1 – Daley Blind, Michael Carrick, Ander Herrera, Bastian Schweinsteiger

AFC Bournemouth: 7 – Joshua King, 6 – Callum Wilson, 4 – Junior Stanislas, 3 – Benik Afobe, Nathan Aké, Charlie Daniels, Ryan Fraser, Dan Gosling, 2 – Steve Cook, 1 – Harry Arter, Lewis Grabban, Max Gradel, Marc Pugh, Adam Smith, Marc Wilson

Team News:

Manchester United have been boosted by the fact that Phil Jones has declared himself fit for Bournemouth this weekend, but with a busy fortnight ahead, he may be saved for the trio of matches against FC Rostov and Chelsea starting a fortnight today. Henrikh Mkhitaryan could be the only first team player on the sidelines for Jose Mourinho’s side, which is still a big loss, but allowing him to rest to be fit for the Rostov double-header and the Chelsea FA Cup match could be much better for United’s progress this season. Rest could be a factor for United, whose team has endured weeks of fixtures. Bournemouth could be without Jordon Ibe, Simon Francis, Callum Wilson, and Adam Federici, which could be costly, but needing the points, Eddie Howe’s side will still be up for the challenge, which if United have their way, will be over before anything starts for the visitors.

Previous Meetings:

Manchester United and AFC Bournemouth do not have much of a history playing eleven matches between the 8th January 1949 and the 14th August 2016. Of those matches, United have won seven, drawn two and lost two – their last defeat coming on the 12th December 2015 with Bournemouth shocking United with a 2-1 victory. Their last defeat came on the 7th January 1984 in the FA Cup, a 2-0 defeat. United will be looking to better their chances of a top-four finish by gaining ground on rivals Liverpool with a victory over Bournemouth, hoping that Arsenal can do the business over the Merseyside club to keep United at least fifth in the league. Last season, United’s match with Bournemouth was postponed after a bomb scare at the Theatre of Dreams with the match replayed a few days later with United winning 3-1, the same scoreline between the two sides at the start of the season which saw Zlatan Ibrahimovic score his first Premier League goal this season, now reaching 26, and counting.

Starting XI Prediction:

Match Prediction:

Manchester United 3-0 AFC Bournemouth

Written by Mike Wilson

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