The last time we played Bournemouth at home in March 2016 was the day that changed everything at NUFC. This was the day that Steve McClaren decided to recall Manuel Rivière out of the dark as his last throw of the dice at United and we should be eternally grateful that he took the opportunity to break the record for our worst ever points total after 28 games in the premier league. His sacking and the perfect timing (in hindsight) of it is why we are where we are now. So thanks Steve and thanks also to Matt Ritchie who helped take us apart that day knowing that it would lead him back here!
The rest is history and here we stand with Rafa in charge and on the brink (everything crossed) of being rid of Mike Ashley. It’s incredible to think that none of this would have probably happened if we had won that game… the alternative doesn’t bare thinking about when you look at the struggles of all the former PL sides relegated since that day. We really have been the exception to the rule. Of the other five teams, only vile sit in the playoff positions as it stands and they have outspent everybody by some way. As hilarious as that is, it really does remind you how lucky we have been that everything has fallen into place as it has.
So, after yet another tightly fought but disappointing result on Monday night, we go into this weekend really keen for another win to keep the feel good factor going around the club right now. We have a good opportunity against Bournemouth who, after a very respectable 9th place finish in their first ever Premier League season last year, have struggled to get going so far and sit one place off the bottom. They are second bottom on goals scored too which bodes well given our defensive record.
Bournemouth brought in former mackem Jermaine Defoe to bolster their attack in the summer but another year older and he’s starting to look like what he is – a 35 year old striker with just 1 goal in 9. Top scorer from last year Josh King (with 16 in the PL) has also only registered one goal so far this season. Their other incomings this summer were Begovic and Nathan Aké, both from Chelsea for a combined £30million. It doesn’t seem to have been enough to sort their defence out though as they have only managed one clean sheet this season in a goalless draw with Leicester in September.
This all looks promising but it should be read with caution as they did pick up a win in their last away game at Stoke. As we have already learnt this season you just can’t write anybody off as an easy win in this league. We’ll once again need the same level of commitment and effort as we have seen at St James Park all season. Burnley on Monday was a reminder that we’re not yet as good as Rafa would like us to be. What we lack in quality we have to make up for in effort and hard work.
Monday’s poor result may have given Rafa the excuse to look at some different options in our attacking line up. If Dwight Gayle is fit, it may be time to see what he can offer with Shelvey and hopefully Merino back in midfield. On the wings both Atsu and Ritchie have been brilliant in most of our games so far but both are looking a little burnt out. Ritchie’s set pieces mean it’s hard to leave him out but I’d really like to see what Jacob Murphy can offer given more than a courtesy 15 minutes when we are chasing the game. His pace might just keep Bournemouth on their toes and give them something else to worry about.
Or not. We all know Rafa will have a plan and to be honest our home form has been good. An unchanged eleven from Palace is just as likely as a changeup. Any rotations will not be knee jerk, they will be planned.
As I’ve said, whatever Rafa goes with this won’t be an easy game. Whilst struggling, Bournemouth will be well organised and will no doubt take a 0-0 from the off so will keep it very tight. If we make a mistake or give away soft set pieces or a penalty we can get punished here. That said, I think Rafa’s United side has matured a lot and we are gradually cutting costly mistakes out of our game.
If we get the first goal here we will go on to win and I have faith in the options we have available to get the goals and an important three points here.
2-0 Rafa’s Mags
SIMON CAMPBELL – FOLLOW SIMON on Twitter