Manchester United will be out to upset the odds by qualifying for the Champions League at the expense of Manchester City when they welcome Bournemouth to Old Trafford this weekend (3pm Sunday on Sky Sports 1).
Louis van Gaal’s side’s fate is now out of their own hands after Tuesday’s 3-2 defeat by West Ham United at Upton Park, with Man Utd two points behind City with just one match left to play. Manuel Pellegrini’s side have been in poor form in recent weeks, so United handing them back control of the race for the top four would have been a major disappointment to the club’s fans. United have to beat Bournemouth and hope City are defeated by Swansea City to take the Premier League’s final Champions League spot, with a victory of their own completely redundant if their local rivals are able to secure a win or a draw at the Liberty Stadium.
Unlike their upcoming opponents on Sunday, Bournemouth have nothing left to play for. Although many tipped them to go straight back down to the Championship this term, the Cherries have survived comfortably and will be looking forward to another season in the top flight. Were it not for Claudio Ranieri’s extraordinary exploits at Leicester City, Eddie Howe would probably be in the running for the Manager of the Year award after yet another superb season on the south coast.
Van Gaal will have to make do without the services of Matteo Darmian (ankle), Marouane Fellaini (suspended), Bastian Schweinsteiger (knee), Will Keane (groin) and Luke Shaw (broken leg) for the weekend’s crunch clash with the Cherries. Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and Marco Rojo will be vying for the left-back spot in Darmian’s absence – Antonio Valencia is likely to be given the nod to start on the right-hand side of the defence – with Chris Smalling and Daley Blind set to continue their partnership in the heart of the backline. Wayne Rooney (pictured) should again start in midfield and Marcus Rashford up top, with Juan Mata, Ander Herrera, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial contenders for the three spots behind the frontman.
Howe, meanwhile, will be unable to call upon Adam Smith (hernia), Tyrone Mings (knee) and Sylvain Distin (back) for the final game of a highly impressive campaign. Matt Ritchie is pushing for a start out wide and Callum Wilson will likely begin the game to finish an injury-hit season on a high, while midfielder Andrew Surman is hoping to continue his record of having played every minute of every league game in 2015/16. Howe may also opt to give a run-out to some of his fringe players at Old Trafford, with Eunan O’Kane, Juan Iturbe, Glenn Murray and Adam Federici not getting a great deal of game time in the last few weeks.
Our Preview’s Man Utd v Bournemouth Betting Tips Verdict
While Man Utd have often laboured at Old Trafford this term, their return of 11 wins and five draws from 18 matches is the joint-second best home record in the division. Similarly, although scoring only 24 goals at home is poor, they have conceded only eight and will therefore prove a tough unit to penetrate for Bournemouth on Sunday afternoon.
Howe’s men have had an excellent first season in the Premier League but their form has tailed off in the last few weeks, with only one of their last seven matches ending in victory. Our match preview’s verdict is that this should be a fairly routine win for Manchester United, then, with another clean sheet –albeit after a probable slow start in the first half – worth backing. Whether that will be enough for Van Gaal’s charges to sneak into the top four at the expense of Manchester City remains to be seen, however.