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Bolton Wanderers vs Manchester United: Preview

Manchester United make the short trip to the Reebok Stadium today to face Bolton Wanderers, knowing that by the time they kick off, both Arsenal and Chelsea could have leapfrogged the reigning champions due to their three o’clock starts. It is therefore imperative we get the three points against the Trotters and reassert our dominance over our title rivals.

A period of four fixtures that will probably define our season are coming up. Bayern Munich, Chelsea and Bayern Munich all after a tricky tie with Bolton. With these fixtures in mind, Sir Alex Ferguson may shuffle his pack and give a few fresher faces the chance to shine today.

Saying that, Edwin van der Sar will be the starting goalkeeper no questions asked. The 39 year old has looked back to his best since returning from injury and will look to keep a clean sheet after conceding last weekend.

At the back, Jonny Evans may get a run out in place of Rio Ferdinand or Nemanja Vidic with Rafael in line to take over from Gary Neville at right-back. Patrice Evra doesn’t seem to get a break at all and he will no doubt keep his place against Bolton.

United are without long-term absentees Wes Brown and John O’Shea, though the Irishman is back in training and should return to first team action soon.

Many would expect Sir Alex to go with a four-man midfield against Bolton, who are a weaker side, no disrespect intended, but it is more likely he will line up with five.

Nani will be buoyed from his contract extension, and should replace Antonio Valencia on the right side of midfield. Ryan Giggs only managed a cameo against Liverpool but should start here alongside fellow veteran Paul Scholes.

With so many big games on the horizon, Darren Fletcher should get a breather, so Michael Carrick will join the ginger ninja in the middle and Ji-Sung Park will no doubt continue to play in the attacking midfield role he has made his own in recent weeks.

Ferguson tried to play down fears that Wayne Rooney is carrying an injury,

“Wayne is fit and there’s nothing wrong with his knee,” Sir Alex stated.

Despite this, Dimitar Berbatov should lead the line today and will look to give a repeat of last season where he scored a 90th minute winner against Bolton at the Reebok.

Out for Bolton are Chris Basham, Gavin McCann, Sean Davis and Joey O’Brien, thought the do possess Kevin Davies who is a handful Chung-yong Lee and Jack Wilshere are young, technically gifted, and a joy to watch but keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen is likely to be given a touch day by United.

Manager Owen Columba Coyle has the Trotters organised in defence and playing some excellent football. He’s also made the Reebok Stadium a fortress, as Bolton have lost only once there since he took over and that was his first game in charge – a 2-0 defeat to Arsenal.

“We are in terrific form at the Reebok and if we show our spirit and desire and our undoubted quality, then that will serve us well,” he told reporters.

Interestingly, Bolton have scored the joint-highest number of goals from set-pieces in the Premier League this season – 21. Whereas, United have conceded the fewest number of set-piece goals in the league – 7.

However, United have won nine of the last 10 meetings against Bolton, and lost only one of their 10 Premier League games at the Reebok, so we have some good omens but a tough match will no doubt ensue.

Prediction: 1-0 United

Probable Line Up: van der Sar, Evra, Evans, Vidic, Rafael; Nani, Carrick, Scholes, Park, Giggs; Berbatov


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