Manchester United travel the M61 to face local rivals Bolton Wanderers on Sunday in a high noon kick off.
In last season’s fixture Man United claimed a comfortable 4-0 victory with goals from that man Own Goal, Darron Gibson and Dimitar Berbatov grabbing a brace. The first half was relatively quiet with both teams lacking ideas; thankfully Jlloyd Samuel coolly slotted past Jussi Jääskeläinen to give United a 1-0 lead at half time. Just before half time an Edwin Van der Sar made a stunning save from a Muamba effort – at the time I classed his effort as one of the saves of the season. During the second half we upped the tempo, but never really dominated Bolton until Berbatov made the score 2-0. The Bulgarian added a third and Gibson a fourth. Nemanja Vidic and Nani were both superb. With Kevin Davies in opposition our defence knew there were in for a scrap. Vidic was a beast – he and Davies enjoyed a right battle, but the Serbian won virtually every header. Nani provided the creative spark in attack and heavily involved in three of the four goals scored. The Portuguese winger impressed with his appetite for work both in attack & defence and deservedly received a loud cheer from the travelling fans after the final whistle.
Bolton have had a stuttering start to their league campaign suffering one defeat at the hands of Arsenal (at the Emirates Stadium), but have enjoyed only one victory over West Ham. The Trotters will also be smarting after defeat to Lancashire rivals Burnley in the Carling Cup. Bolton manager Owen Coyle will be eager to bounce back after losing out to his former club. Last season many called his move from Burnley to Bolton a sideways step (at the time both teams were hovering around relegation zone). Personally, I was not of that opinion. Bolton have been a Premier League club for a number of years while the 2009-10 season was Burnley’s first year in the top flight for many a year. With a relatively new stadium Bolton have the potential to be a bigger club – in mid table safety rather than fighting relegation each season. Coyle has brought his own style of play to Bolton, they have transformed into a passing team with Chung-Yong Lee prominent.
Davies and Jaaskelainen are likely to return after suspension, whilst England defender Gary Cahill is unavailable after his sending off against Arsenal. Andy O’Brien, Joey O’Brien and Sean Davis are missing through injury.
Questions Questions Questions?
With the trip to Valencia on Wednesday plenty of questions (in my mind anyway) surround team selection. Wayne Rooney’s lack of form is worrying; who to partner Vidic at the heart of defence and who to play in midfield are worthy of discussion.
I’ve done to death right back. Wes Brown is my preferred choice in the position. Enough said. Since his arrival from Fulham, Chris Smalling has done nothing but impress. He has the potential to be a top class defender. However, Rio Ferdinand or Jonny Evans is more likely to partner Vidic. I might be alone in my thinking – I’m really torn on which of the two should start. I wasn’t overly convinced by Rio’s performance against Scunthorpe United – he is still finding feet after a torrid time with injuries, which is to be expected. In no way am I criticising Rio. Although Evans had his own critics this season I’m leaning towards wanting him to start. Evans faced Davies twice last season so has an idea of what to expect.
Selection in midfield is interesting. Fletcher and Nani are penned in. I’m inclined for Scholes to miss out with the thought of him starting against Valencia. Retention of possession away in Europe is paramount – there is no better player than Scholes at achieving this. If he starts on Wednesday he is less likely to feature against Sunderland on the weekend, which will be in Sir Alex’s considerations. With those thoughts I’m hoping Anderson lines up alongside Fletcher. Why Anderson, but no Rio you may be asking? Their injury problems are well documented; I’m just wary of their position in the team – a mistake in central defence is likely to be more costly. Giggs is my preferred selection on the left and Park at the Mestalla on Wednesday, where his strengths can be fully utilised.
Dimitar Berbatov will be full of confidence after his hat-trick against Liverpool and is a certainty. What about Rooney? No doubt he is currently struggling; he was very poor against Glasgow Rangers – one of, if not his worst performance in a United shirt. We saw a marked improvement against Liverpool, but still a shadow of his former self. Rooney has a good goal scoring record against Bolton – six goals in his four appearances, which will give him confidence into the game. He starts for me. If Sir Alex feels otherwise, Michael Owen provided a reminder of his clinical finishing with two goals against Scunthorpe United.
My preferred team: Van der Sar; Brown (W), Evans, Vidic, Evra; Nani, Fletcher, Anderson, Giggs; Berbatov, Rooney.
With Chelsea and Arsenal dropping points on Saturday we’ve had a cracking day. We have to do our bit on Sunday!!
Predicted score line: 3-1 United, goals from Berbtaov and Rooney (come on Wayne!!)
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