Manchester United will look to end their winless run of four matches away at relegation-threatened Bournemouth in Saturday's late Premier League kickoff, as the pressure builds on coach Louis van Gaal.
Since van Gaal took charge before the start of last season, performance have been, by and large, terrible. Many were all-too-willing to turn a blind eye while results were acceptable, but with United having been eliminated from the Champions League while struggling domestically, his shortcomings are increasingly indefensible. With a shortage of players and confidence now exacerbating an already-difficult situation, a victory is badly needed to arrest the slide and hush the ever more-audible discontent.
We're bored of explaining these absences individually, so from here on we'll just reel them off like a school register: Matteo Darmian, Luke Shaw, Antonio Valencia, Marcos Rojo, Ander Herrera, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Wayne Rooney and Bastian Schweinsteiger. Though Morgan Schneiderlin should be back available!
The good news is that Bournemouth almost have as many problems as United on the injury front. They'll be without summer signings Tyrone Mings and Max Gradel, as well as first-team striker Callum Wilson, defender Tommy Elphick and midfielder Marc Pugh. Harry Arter, Adam Federici and Lee Tomlin are all in doubt.
Bournemouth are not very good. They certainly deserve credit for keeping their heads above water thus far, though with Newcastle United and Sunderland both on the up, the Cherries are certainly one of the big favourites for relegation at this stage. Eddie Howe has attempted to maintain the short passing game that took them to the Championship title last season, though at the expense of defensive solidity. They've conceded as many goals as anyone in the Premier League so far, and surely not even van Gaal's United will fail to find the net in this match.
They're a team that like to use the full width of the pitch, with wingers Junior Stanislas and Matt Ritchie almost certainly their most dangerous attacking players. With Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and Guillermo Varela likely to occupy United's full-back slots for this match, they'll surely look to exploit their strength out wide all the more. Big target man Glenn Murray is favourite to be given the nod up top, with his physicality and aerial presence ensuring he'll be attacking everything that comes into the box.
However, they're a very porous team, who tend to enjoy plenty of possession but in doing so leave gaps for wily opponents to exploit on the break. Unfortunately van Gaal doesn't seem to understand what a counter-attack is, never mind quite how effective they can be when adopted as a strategy, so the Cherries defence will doubtless be given plenty of time to reorganise before being attacked. As ever, it's likely we'll end up hoping for a moment of brilliance or a calamitous error to find our way through.
Bournemouth (4-1-4-1): Artur Boruc; Charlie Daniels, Steve Cook, Simon Francis, Adam Smith; Andrew Surman; Junior Stanislas, Harry Arter, Dan Gosling, Matt Ritchie; Glenn Murray.
Manchester United (4-2-3-1): David de Gea; Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, Daley Blind, Paddy McNair, Guillermo Varela; Morgan Schneiderlin, Michael Carrick; Memphis Depay, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard; Anthony Martial.