Manchester United travel to the South Coast to face Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium in the Premier League on Saturday afternoon. Erik ten Hag’s side need to continue their winning ways as their place in the top four of the Premier League is not guaranteed. Liverpool are a point behind them, although United have a game in hand which will be played in a week’s time against Chelsea at Old Trafford. United cannot let this slip or the season will have taken a terrible turn.
Bournemouth are in a good position with 39 points sitting in 14th place with all likelihood that they will not be relegated this season. Southampton are already down so it remains to be seen who will be joining them out of Leicester City (19th), Leeds United (18th), Everton (17th) and Nottingham Forest (16th). West Ham United are two points adrift of Bournemouth but seem safe at this stage – a point for them this weekend could make them safe too.
United have had a positive season but the two defeats to Brighton and Hove Albion and West Ham made it difficult for United to secure their top four position by this stage of the season. Ideally, United would have liked to rest some key players – keeping them fit ahead of the Emirates FA Cup final against Manchester City at Wembley Stadium on Saturday 3 June 2023. But before that, beating Bournemouth and Chelsea seem the best way of getting a top four finish done.
Predicted Manchester United Starting XI – 4-2-3-1
Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Varane, Shaw;
Antony, Fernandes, Garnacho;
Goalkeeper: De Gea
David De Gea has 16 clean sheets in the Premier League this season and has a very good chance of winning the Golden Glove, which would be a suggestion of his ability in goal for United, despite his faults. The Spanish goalkeepers time at the Old Trafford club is very much up in the air at this time but there have been rumours of a new contract – with others rumours suggesting otherwise. Whatever happens, he has been a decent goalkeeper for the club.
De Gea still has something to achieve at United this season and that will be to help United achieve a top four finish in the Premier League and possibly win the Emirates FA Cup when they go head to head with Manchester City on Saturday 3 June 2023 at Wembley. Winning the Premier League Golden Boot will also be a good things for De Gea and United to achieve – seeing as there are supposedly more better goalkeepers in the Premier League right now.
Tom Heaton is now back following an ankle injury and Jack Butland is still seeking to make his debut for United months after making a loan move from Crystal Palace in January. Both goalkeepers will be hoping to get back on the pitch before the end of the season as it is possible that bot of them leave the club this summer. I mean, Butland will be leaving because his loan will be over and he will be a free agent this summer. Heaton could be retained for another season.
Defenders: Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Varane, Shaw
United’s defence is still one man down with Lisandro Martinez out of action for the remainder of the season. I was a big blow for United but daylight can be seen at the end of the tunnel. Ten Hag has options but Harry Maguire does not seem to be one of those at this stage of the season. In the fullback positions, I feel that Aaron Wan-Bissaka is ahead of Diogo Dalot at this stage of the season although the Portuguese right-back will be fresh and ready to go.
Against Bournemouth, Wan-Bissaka should be starting in the right-back position as I feel his defending is brilliant but in terms of getting forward, he could improve. That partnership he has on the right with Antony is good too and brings a positive for United. On the left, Luke Shaw should be able to play in his favoured position now that Raphael Varane is back and United have more options in the centre of the defence – well more than they had three weeks ago at least.
In the centre of the defence, Victor Lindelof should keep his place, as should Raphael Varane. Lindelof has been in great form since he was recalled into the starting XI following the injuries sustained to Varane and Martinez against Sevilla. The Swede is a positive at the back at this moment in time. Varane has just returned from his injury so he will need to be give rest so he doesn’t suffer a reoccurrence. He could be rested in the second half, should United get a lead.
Midfield: Casemiro, Eriksen
The midfield is a strong area for United this season. The injury to Marcel Sabitzer has been a blow for United which will see him leave the club at the end of the season, unless United decide to make his loan permanent from Bayern Munich in the summer? However, United have Scott McTominay coming back into action following a month or so on the sidelines, so there is still strong cover in the midfield without factoring in youth players stepping up to the first team.
Casemiro and Christian Eriksen are the likely starters against Bournemouth and much like Varane in the centre of defence, one or both of them could be replaced in the second half should United get a good lead in the first half. Casemiro has been brilliant for United this season and his form for the club has been largely positive. Eriksen is a great talent to have at the club. He has been overused this season but he’s one of the best at the club at this time – that could change.
The likes of Fred and McTominay could step into the fray for United should they be required with both being able to offer something. With the FA Cup final on the horizon, United need to be seeking to rotate their best players so they have a chance against Manchester City, which will be a hectic match for them. That said, United have beaten City this season, winning 2-1 but also lost 6-3 earlier in the season. They have as good a chance as City at the moment.
Attacking Midfield: Antony, Fernandes, Garnacho
United have some talented players in these positions this season and hopefully it should change in the summer too with other players being brought in to raise the overall talent and ability of the squad? Antony has been a large positive this season with his eight goals and three assists in all competitions. I would like to see him get to double figures in terms of goals though – needing two in the next four matches – which is achievable for a player of his calibre and talent.
Bruno Fernandes is one of the stand out players for United this season. His lack of injury and creative determination is great to see. United have needed a player like him for years and he loves it at the Old Trafford club. 11 goals and 13 assists so far this season has not been on the same level as he has in previous seasons, but it is still up there in terms of offering a lot. United do need to get more ability at the club though, especially in the forward ranks – which is lacking now.
Alejandro Garnacho returned from the bench last week against Wolverhampton Wanderers, scoring his fifth goal of the season, adding to his four assists. That is a good outset for him in his debut season as a full first team player and his talent is there to be seen by everyone. His new long-term contract at the club will see him raise his game and give his early stages of his career to the club. It will be great to see what he can achieve at United in the coming years?
Anthony Martial founds goalscoring boots for United last week against Wolves. In the final away match of the season, the club will be seeking to add to their positive season but aiming to confirm their fourth-placed finish in the Premier League to ensure they participate in the UEFA Champions League next season – which is a must. Martial scored his eighth goal of the season last week, adding to his three assists. He has not been great this season, but this is something.
The Frenchman will need to start finding his feet in the remaining there matches of the Premier League season against Bournemouth, Chelsea and Fulham, with the latter two matches being played at the Theatre of Dreams. The final match of the season, at least for United, will be against Manchester City at Wembley to contest the Emirates FA Cup, which could see United complete a domestic cup double and end City’s hopes of completing a treble.
Martial looks set to be one the major departures at United this summer, which should have happened last summer, with hindsight although he did start well in pre-season, before he got injured, then did well in from of goal before getting injured again – which has made his season look terrible. That said, he has scored a few good goals and continued to be ready to fire more into the back of the net. Wout Weghorst could replace him but he has not exactly been firing in the goals.
Substitutes: Heaton, Butland; Maguire, Malacia, Dalot; Fred, McTominay; Sancho, Weghorst
Ten Hag and United will have nine platers on the bench in their fine away match of the Premier League season against Bournemouth. Tom Heaton, who is now back from an ankle injury and Jack Butland will be the two goalkeepers on the bench because of injury to other outfield players. This is not the greatest thing with United needing consistency and creativity all over the pitch. I would doubt any of these goalkeepers would start ahead of De Gea.
In defence, United could have Harry Maguire, Tyrell Malacia and Diogo Dalot to call upon should they be required. To keep the first-choice players fit for the FA Cup final, it is possible that the likes of Varane and Shaw get replaced to give them a rest. It is possible that Wan-Bissaka also gets replaced at some stage with Ten Hag needing to utilise the five substitutes that the club can use in each Premier League match. United have a big squad to utilise but quality lacks.
In the midfield, Fred and Scott McTominay could both be available, should they be required. I think that will be necessary though as United seek to do the business against Bournemouth and try to retain their place in the top four this season, which is at risk by Liverpool. In attack, Jadon Sancho and Wout Weghorst could be called upon. Neither have had a blistering season at United but they have their uses – even if it is to allow the first-choice players to be rotated.
Written by John Walker