Focus: How buoyant Cherries are plotting another scalp against injury-hit Man United
Judging by the 3-2 defeat to Wolfsburg in midweek, Manchester United’s growing injury crisis has led to an unexpected change in tactical strategy for Louis van Gaal and a new line-up that appears soft in the centre. Bournemouth, buoyed by the charismatic 1-0 victory over Chelsea last weekend, will believe they have the game plan to pull off another shock.
United’s performance in Germany was, by some distance, the most direct and attacking of the 2015/16 campaign to date. It is difficult to know whether Van Gaal deliberately tweaked his system in an attempt to prevent his counter-attacking opponents from luring them into a trap, or if it was the consequence of a forced team selection that included Anthony Martial, Memphis Depay, Jesse Lingard, and Juan Mata in a central role. Perhaps these four simply couldn’t help themselves.
United’s performance in Germany was, by some distance, the most direct and attacking of 2015/16 to date
In the build-up to the opening goal, the ball travelled some 60 yards in two passes and five touches, epitomising the speed and verticality of their approach. Mata looked to play through-balls as early as possible on the half-turn, and how could he resist – given that Depay, Lingard, and Martial made bursting runs on the shoulder of the last defender at any opportunity.
Necessity dictates that a very similar line-up will be used on Saturday, and thus Andrew Surman (2.5 interceptions per game) and Harry Arter (3.4 tackles per game) must work hard to ensure that Mata is not given space on the ball. Bournemouth’s complex pressing system involves aggressively snapping at the heels of central midfielders after initially conceding possession, before dropping back into a tight shell during sustained periods of pressure. Their ability to pounce onto Mata and stamp out this threat before their team-mates drop deep into formation will be crucial.
Matt Ritchie and Junior Stanislas move infield to provide extra passing options for the trio of central midfielders, all of whom are capable – as shown at Chelsea – of passing the ball quickly and dangerously
Matt Ritchie and Junior Stanislas move infield to provide extra passing options for the Cherries' trio of central midfielders, all of whom are capable – as shown at Chelsea – of passing the ball quickly and dangerously. Stanislas (2.2 key passes per game) has emerged from the fringes of Bournemouth’s squad to become their most incisive attacker, and he will be relishing the chance of taking on the inexperienced Guillermo Varela, who started his first senior game for United against Wolfsburg and was kept busy.