Bournemouth have had a successful return to the Premier League, having confirmed their safety for this season last week. The Cherries were promoted this season after finishing 2nd in the Championship last season, and after a bumpy start to the season, they have achieved their objective with games to spare. Most pundits and critics had them down as one of three teams to be relegated, especially after the 9-0 defeat against Liverpool at Anfield. However, under manager Gary O’Neil – who took over from Scott Parker after the Englishman was sacked following the loss at Anfield- the Cherries have dug deep and produced some brilliant results to guarantee their status as a Premier League club for next season. O’Neil was given the job on an interim basis, but after some impressive displays and results, he was confirmed as the new permanent manager, which seems to have paid off. The Cherries have put in some very good results recently, including wins over Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspurs, but are winless in their last two games. Their last game was a 2-0 away defeat to Crystal Palace, with the Bournemouth attack ineffective at Selhurst Park and Palace were at their clinical best with Eberechi Eze scoring both goals for the Eagles. Despite the loss, the Cherries confirmed their survival thanks to results elsewhere, meaning it was not a total damp day in the capital for them.
Manchester United’s season, on the other hand, is far from over, with the Red Devils fighting tooth and nail on two fronts. Despite sitting in fourth place, the race for top four is still to be finalized with arch-rivals Liverpool breathing down their neck. The Merseyside Reds sit in fifth place, just a point behind United, albeit having played a game more. United need two wins from their last three games to guarantee a return to the Champions League next season and could end up finishing as the best of the rest in third, with Newcastle United currently level on points with them. A win against Bournemouth on Saturday would give them a huge boost and see them cement their position in the top four, although unless Liverpool drop points this weekend, the race could go down to the wire. With a FA Cup still to come at the end of the season, United know they cannot be complacent and will have to give their all heading into the final four games of the season. They have had a few injury issues of late which has seen their form take a tumble, but they looked comfortable in their last game, a 2-0 win at home against Wolverhampton Wanderers.
United could have ended the game with a huge margin of victory, but poor finishing and some inspired keeping from Wolves’ new goalkeeper saw the Red Devils score just 2. However, it was still a huge win, snapping their two game losing streak and giving them some momentum as they prepare for their final away game of the league. Their away form has been questioned on several occasions this season, and with a game of such magnitude with a lot at stake, United will have to step up on Saturday.
It is Bournemouth’s final home game of the season and they will be determined to give their fans a winning send off for this season. United know they have to win at all costs here on the south coast, and it all makes for an intriguing game on a classic Premier League Saturday.
WHEN & WHERE?
Date: Saturday, 20th May 2023.
Time: 3.00 pm BST.
Venue: Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth, UK.
Referee: Chris Kavanagh.
Assistants: Marc Perry, Steve Meredith.
Fourth official: Dean Whitestone.
VAR: Craig Pawson.
Assistant VAR: Natalie Aspinall.
Bournemouth will be without a few key players on Saturday, with Gary O’Neil confirming that Marcus Tavernier and Antoine Semenyo will miss out for the remainder of the season. The former is suffering from a hamstring injury while the latter has a leg injury that will keep both of them out for at least two weeks. Defender Ryan Fredricks and midfielder Junior Stanislas are also set to miss out on United’s trip to the Vitality, although it is unclear how long the duo will be on the sidelines. In some good news for the Cherries, midfielder Hamed Traore returned to training recently and could be set to feature for them on Saturday.
Manchester United welcomed back two players to full training in the week, as star forward Marcus Rashford returned from a leg injury that kept him out of United’s 2-0 win over Wolves last week. Alongside him, midfielder Scott McTominay also returned to training, having recovered from an injury he picked up in mid-April. The return of the Scot will be music to the ears of Erik ten Hag after recently losing Marcel Sabitzer for the rest of the season. The on-loan Austrian was ruled out for the remaining games after suffering a knee injury, meaning ten Hag lost yet another of his midfielders. However, with McTominay returning, it gives United an extra option in the engine room. Alejandro Garnacho returned from his spell on the sidelines last week, coming off the bench to score the second goal against Wolves. He will be in line to feature again on Saturday.
The Portuguese midfield juggernaut has been ever-present for United and has flourished under Erik ten Hag. Bruno Fernandes has a tally of 11 goals and 15 assists across all competitions this season, whilst playing in numerous different positions to help the team. His assist tally does not do justice to the number of chances he creates every game and is in fact the most creative player in the league, with 108 chances created, ahead of the likes of Kevin de Bruyne and Martin Odegaard. He is also the second-highest goalscorer in the Red Devils squad and has the highest assists of the lot, highlighting his importance in the team. He makes the team tick on the field, and has displayed his class and skill wherever he has played on the pitch, making himself invaluable to Erik ten Hag.
AFC Bournemouth XI vs Manchester United: Neto; Adam Smith, Chris Mepham, Marco Senesi, Matias Vina; Jefferson Lerma, Joe Rothwell; Jaidon Anthony, Phillip Billings, Ryan Christie; Dominic Solanke.
Manchester United XI vs AFC Bournemouth: David de Gea; Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Raphael Varane, Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw; Casemiro, Christian Eriksen; Antony, Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford; Anthony Martial.