Friday, 9 September 2011

United vs Bolton Big Match Preview

Manchester United return to league action on Saturday when they take on Bolton Wanderers at the Reebok Stadium looking to maintain their 100% record after three games. The international break has brought no fresh injury concerns and Sir Alex Ferguson looks set to have a strong pool of players from which to choose.

Bolton have started the season with a thumping away win at QPR on the opening day followed by two losses against Manchester City and Liverpool. Manager Owen Coyle was busy in the transfer window bringing in a number of permanent and loan signings. Arguably his best bit of business was retaining the services of England centre back Gary Cahill who attracted the interest of both Arsenal and Spurs.

United have a tough trip to Lisbon in midweek as the Champions League group stages commence and with Chelsea next up in the league, the manager will surely utilise the depth of his squad in the next week after having a settled side in the opening weeks.

The Opposition
Coyle's men will provide a stiff test for United on Saturday. Although they lost Elmander during the summer, they managed to bring in David Ngog from Liverpool who showed glimpses of real talent at Anfield and will surely benefit under the guidance of Coyle at the Reebok. In previous years, Wilshere and Sturridge have blossomed and returned to their clubs much stronger players so it will be interesting to see how the young Frenchman develops after his move on a permanent deal.

Chris Eagles was snapped up from Burnley having started his career at United. He is a talented player who will enhance his reputation at Bolton if he works hard. Tuncay has become something of a journeyman in recent years but has history against United after scoring a hat trick for Fenerbahce and a wonder strike for Stoke in recent seasons.

As usual, the main danger may well come from Kevin Davies who continues to be one of the most difficult strikers to play against in the league. United will be well aware of the threat he poses and it will be interesting to see how he behaves at set pieces as he is sure to be given the task of getting under De Gea's skin.

A worrying aspect of the opening three games for Bolton has been their weakness in defence with the usually reliable Jussi Jaaskelainen being particularly culpable. Zat Knight has also shown a regular frailty that the Reds will look to expose when the opportunity arises.


With the busy timetable of fixtures coming up, it is a very difficult team to predict. I would expect the manager will have one eye on the Chelsea match and may well utilise the full depth of his squad in this match and against Benfica in midweek.

I would expect Rio Ferdinand to return to the starting line-up after taking part in training over the last fortnight and I am going for Phil Jones as his defensive partner with Evans saved for midweek. Smalling and Evra will expect to fill the full back berths.

I am going for a change to the midfield four for the first time this season with Michael Carrick coming in for Tom Cleverley for no other reason than the former needs games heading into a busy schedule. There is a chance that United could adopt a 4-5-1 formation which would mean Carrick coming in for a striker to bolster the midfield. Darren Fletcher played both games for Scotland recently so will come back into contention but I would expect a bench role tomorrow followed by an appearance in Lisbon. Young and Nani are the wide men in possession and I would expect to see them again but the availability of Park and Valencia means that changes are inevitable at some point.

Up front, I am going for Berbatov to partner Rooney in the absence of Welbeck with Hernández starting on the bench. The Bulgarian needs games to bring him up to match fitness and his hold up play could be important at the Reebok.

Scoreline prediction
Trips to the Reebok are never easy and this will be no different. Although Bolton have refined their playing style under Owen Coyle, they are capable of playing testing long balls into the opposition penalty area when the opportunity arises. For this reason I would expect De Gea to be given a stern test and there will no doubt be a few tense moments. I will, however, back United to prevail 2-1 with goals from Nani and Anderson.

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