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Festive Fixtures – Can Ole Get United Back In Top 4 Contention?

So the tenure of former Manchester United striker and Champions League winner Ole Gunnar Solskjær has started as well as he and the club could have hoped as the team has responded with 2 convincing wins playing attractive football and scoring 8 goals.

United play Bournemouth on Sunday at Old Trafford and must take advantage of Arsenal and Spurs losing to Liverpool and Wolves respectively this weekend and beat Bournemouth.

When the Red-Devils (under Jose Mourinho) visited the Vitality Stadium at the beginning of November for the away fixture, Eddie Howe’s team gave them all they could handle and Manchester United were very fortunate to beat Bournemouth 2-1 to grab all 3 points thanks to a lucky Marcus Rashford strike in the 92nd minute with virtually the last kick of the game.

United’s top 6 rivals have all had very competitive games against the Cherries and Ole Gunnar Solskjær will know that this game is as tough as they come as Eddie Howe’s team play good football and are a match for anyone in the Premier League as their 12th position, only 6 points behind 6th placed United shows.

At the start of the season United were 2nd or 3rd favourites to win the title with bookies while most pundits thought the Red-Devils were solid contenders for a top 4 finish. Punters who use betting offers like the bethard bonus codes to get the best value from their wagers and keen fantasy football players will know that United’s odds have drifted out in many markets and some of their players’ values in fantasy football have dipped after their poor start to the season under the now departed Jose Mourinho.

United are 6th favourites for a top 4 place at 11/4 quite a difference from 5th placed Arsenal who are available at 5/2 while 4th favourites Chelsea can be had at 4/9 with Ladbrokes for a top 4 finish and Spurs’ best odds are 1/6 as 3rd favourites.

As we have seen both Arsenal and Chelsea can have spells of indifferent form as they adjust to new managers and tactics and Tottenham are not a lock for a top 4 place as their home loss to Wolves on Saturday showed.

With any luck Chelsea will lose to Crystal Palace on Sunday which would help Manchester United as they could gain 3 points on their main rivals for the positions above them in the table.

United are currently in 6th place 6 points behind Arsenal with a game in hand so a win vs Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth side will keep them in 6th but reduce the deficit to 3 points short of the Gunners.

Chelsea are in 4th at the moment and are going through a rough patch in their season just like Arsenal so Ole must take advantage of their rivals’ poor form and push up the table.

The Red-Devils will not be looking too far ahead in their fixture list as they try to get on a winning streak – something they have not managed so far this season. However the new boss will surely have the away game on Sunday 13th of January against Spurs at Wembley highlighted. United were solidly beaten when they played Pochettino’s side early in the season losing 3-0 at Old Trafford when they actually should have scored several goals but the forwards simply were not remotely clinical whereas Tottenham were clinical like surgeons in front of goal.

How the game against Pochettino’s Spurs outfit goes will be a real indication of the progress United have made under their Norwegian manager and with a bit of luck they will play Harry Kane and company with a fit squad. If the new United boss can get two world class forwards like Sanchez and Lukaku playing anywhere near their capabilities which they showed at Arsenal and Everton respectively then it will be like having two new players such has been the way they were being utilised by Jose Mourinho.

We should see Pogba, Sanchez, Lukaku, Mata, Fred and Rashford really strut their stuff under Solskjær and deliver on the field plus you can look for Martial and Lingard to keep improving too along with the rest of the squad.

Hopefully United will face Tottenham on the back of a 5 game winning streak assuming they can beat the Cherries, Newcastle and Reading (FA Cup) in their next 3 fixtures. The team’s confidence could be sky high and they should be in tune with what their new manager wants from them by mid January.

Beating Spurs will be a massive boost but Solskjær will be fully focused on Bournemouth as he knows that Eddie Howe’s team are a formidable opponent and the boss will genuinely be taking things on a game by game basis but the early signs from the likes of Pogba and Martial indicate that they, like the rest of the squad, are enjoying their football under Ole.

We are looking for another 3 points against Bournemouth and a clean sheet would be welcomed by David De Gea plus more of the attacking football with numerous goals that Solskjær has delivered so far (8 scored in 2 games with 2 conceded).

It has been refreshing to see that Ole has used Juan Mata but crucially he has used Fred in both games so far, as a sub vs Cardiff then the Brazilian started vs Huddersfield. Clearly the boss thinks Fred has much to contribute and is keen to get him in the team. This has to be a good sign as Fred joined from Shakhtar Donetsk for a fee of £52million and has had few chances and very few consecutive games to develop any rhythm or game sharpness that only comes from playing top level football. Fred was expected to offer solidity in midfield and the ability to deliver killer passes to the forwards like Rashford, Lukaku, Martial etc.

New boss Solskjær seems to have turned around the attitude at the club quickly and if he can get Sanchez and Fred firing in addition to the in-form Lingard and Martial plus keep Pogba, Mata, Lukaku and Rashford smiling the team should continue scoring more goals and providing the type of attractive attacking football which is mandatory for a United team.

If he has the goals coming from the group just mentioned, then he really has the one tricky task of tightening up the defence and giving David De Gea more stability in front of him. Will United sign a centre-back if they can? It’s an interesting question. They would have the centre-back they want and need if only Marcus Rojo could stay fit. Unfortunately that is a massive “if”.

Therefore we still think the defence needs more work and is vulnerable so we are predicting a 3-1 United win. Hopefully Alexis Sanchez is able to return after his hamstring problem and Anthony Martial can shake off his illness. McTominay, Smalling and Rojo are certain to miss the Bournemouth game but could be back by the middle of the month.

Bournemouth come into the game off the back of a 5-0 hammering from Spurs and have 2 wins and 3 losses in their last 5 League games while United as we know are on a 2 game winning streak under Solskjær and have 3 wins, 1 loss and 1 draw in their last 5 League games.

How do you see the game going? I think it will be a highly competitive Premier League clash and I am predicting a 3-2 win for Ole’s United side plus I am going on record to say I think the club legend will have his United team in the top 4 come the end of the season and if he does plus he pulls off a good run in the Champions League and/or a win in the FA Cup then surely the job is his if he wants it.