The 2016/17 Premier League season kicks off in a few days, and the football community is already buzzing in anticipation for another nine months of the most competitive league in the world.
One of the games on the opening weekend sees two teams expected to be competing at opposite ends of the table. Bournemouth enjoyed a respectable 16th placed finish last season, but many pundits expect them to be in and around the relegation zone for much of this season. Manchester United, on the other hand, armed with quality signings that cost millions of pounds are expected to be right up there with the best of them this year. The game is set to kick off on Sunday, August 14 at 13:30 BST at the Vitality Stadium in the city of Bournemouth, Dorset.
This will be only the 3rd meeting between the two sides in history, with both previous meetings coming in the league last season. Bournemouth won the first clash 2-1 in December, while Manchester United gained revenge with a 3-1 home win in May.
The Cherries, managed by the impressive Eddie Howe are considerable underdogs in this affair and will probably play accordingly, with two lines of four behind the ball. Bournemouth will know their best chance of getting anything from this game is on the counter, and once can expect Max Gradel and Joshua King, who scored the famous winner in this fixture last year, to lead the line.
The Red Devils will likely start the game with Mourinho’s favoured 4-2-3-1 formation, with probable debuts for Eric Bailey, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Zlatan Ibrahimovich. Bournemouth are likely going to congest the middle of the park, so United’s wingers and full backs are going to need to stretch the play and make it as wide as possible.
Jordan Ibe’s performance will also be one to keep an eye on, and could be integral to what the Cherries get from this fixture. The record signing and former Liverpool player will have to accustom quickly to the pressure of being a club’s record signing and deliver from the onset. He has the ability to cut inside or go down the line, making him a very tricky customer to deal with.
Buoyed by his strike in the Community Shield, Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be the most prominent thorn in Bournemouth’s side. A hardworking Bournemouth side are likely to be defending with their backs to the wall, but the Swedish front man has more than enough quality to find the back of the net if given even a half chance.
Jose Mourinho, when with Chelsea, began last season in a not so impressive fashion, only managing to draw against Swansea at home. Eager to start in a stronger manner this year, Manchester United will need to justify their expensive summer outlay with a title challenge, and I expect them to win this game fairly comfortably.