Premier League Preview: Manchester United vs Bournemouth

Manchester United host Bournemouth on Saturday aiming to boost their hopes of securing a top four finish in the Premier League this season.

Despite their inconsistencies during the current campaign, United will head into the game just three points behind fourth-placed Manchester City.

The Red Devils’ 2-1 victory over Chelsea in midweek left them nine points behind table-topping Arsenal, which could be argued not to be an unsurmountable gap.

However, fans who regularly watch Premier League matches will recognise that suggesting United can mount a title challenge is tilting at windmills.

The topsy-turvy nature of their season was captured in microcosm against Chelsea, with the team’s fortunes fluctuating wildly during the game.

Bruno Fernandes spurned an early chance to put United ahead from the penalty spot, before Scott McTominay settled the nerves with a close-range effort.

United allowed Chelsea back into the game and it was no surprise when Cole Palmer wrong-footed Andre Onana to bring the scoreline level.

Both sides created chances after the break, but McTominay eventually settled the contest with a superb header after fine work by Alejandro Garnacho.

Manager Erik ten Hag will be eager to see United follow up against Bournemouth, although he is sensible enough not to underestimate the threat they pose.

After suffering a 6-1 defeat at Man City in early November, Bournemouth have picked up 10 points from their next four games to climb away from the relegation zone.

That run of results includes a victory over Newcastle United and a draw with Aston Villa, highlighting why it would be foolish to think United will win easily this weekend.

Goals by Marcos Senesi and Kieffer Moore secured a deserved 2-0 victory for Bournemouth at Crystal Palace in midweek and put them in touching distance of the top half of the table.

Andoni Iraola’s side were happy to soak up pressure against the Eagles and will likely adopt a similar approach on their latest visit to Old Trafford.

While United would be well-advised not to take Bournemouth lightly, they can garner plenty of encouragement from their historical record against the south coast club.

The Red Devils have recorded 14 victories and three draws from their 20 previous meetings with Bournemouth. Most notably, none of the three defeats were on home soil.

Of their 12 meetings in the Premier League since 2015, United have won nine and drawn one – a record which suggests this should be a banker home win.

Odds of 8/15 to win the game are short enough given United’s inconsistent form, but they should get the job done ahead of a crucial run of fixtures.

They kick things off with a crucial Champions League group game at home to Bayern Munich next Tuesday, before visiting arch-rivals Liverpool four days later.

United round off the year with games against West Ham United (A), Villa (H) and Nottingham Forest (A) – all of which have the potential to be tricky.

Having struggled to consistently produce their best form this season, it is imperative for United to head into 2024 with some momentum behind them.

Finishing in the top four will not be easy, particularly given more teams are in contention than would generally be the case.

However, with just three points separating United from fourth position after 15 games, the incentive is there for the team to finish the year on a positive note.

A victory over Bournemouth on Saturday would help to build momentum and they look a good bet to achieve feat, although the scoreline may be tight.

Prediction: Manchester United 2-1 Bournemouth.

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