Date:19th March 2011 at 2:05am
Written by:

Berbatov celebrates

Could Berba be back in the starting line-up today?

Bolton Wanders are the visitors to Old Trafford this weekend, as United look to ensure they stop the current run of league defeats with 3 points against the Trotters.

Wanderers are a different side this term to what we’ve seen in previous years under Allardyce, Lee and Megson, and Owen Coyle has transformed the club from one who played efficient football that saw them just about keeping their head above water, to an entertaining side that are challenging in the top half of the table and currently lie in 7th place.

United come in to Saturday’s game with Wayne Rooney’s twin brother Mike Phelan taking charge from the sidelines, as Alex Ferguson begins his five match touchline ban for comments made about referee Martin Atkinson.  Will the boss be missed in this one?  Our performances have been ones of hard work this season, and Bolton will make it difficult for us whoever is on the touchline.  Phelan has been in charge of the first team before, and Bolton should be a nice start to his five games where he’ll be the temporary boss.

Bolton come to us on the back of six wins in their last eight games.  Here’s a look at some of their main players this term:

Johan Elmander:

Swedish international, signed from Tolouse in 2008.  After a less than convincing start to his Bolton career, which included a 9 month goal drought, the 6ft 2″ striker has come alive under Owen Coyle.  This season he’s chipped in with 11 goals, and if earning rave reviews for the Trotters.  Now justifying the £8.2million that Gary Megson paid for his services from the French league, his presence and tall frame may cause problems for the centre back pairing of Wes Brown and Chris Smalling.

Kevin Davies:

The physical Davies always marks his arrival at Old Trafford with a few nudges here and there on anyone who might be near him.  The Bolton skipper will form a hefty partnership with Elmander in front of Smalling and Brown, and you’d be forgiven if you put money on the strike force being able to grab a goal in this one.

Gary Cahill:

A much under rated player, who should be at a better club.  A very good centre back who reads the game well, the question will be if he can keep up with Javier Hernandez should he start the game, when he looks to make runs on to through balls.  Cahill, a recently capped England international can be credited with being vital to Bolton’s high league position this term.

Could it be anyone’s game?

Illness and injury plagues both teams at the moment.  Bolton have a number of casualties including Sam Ricketts, J Lloyd Samuel and Mark Davies.

United have a list as long as your arm for players out. Anderson, Hargreaves & Lindegaard all miss out with knee injuries and Ferdinand is still out of the reckoning, reports suggesting that he could be out for the season. Darren Fletcher is a major doubt as he recovers from a virus and John O’Shea & Rafael both carry hamstring injuries. Nemandja Vidic has a calf injury, and Paul Scholes is banned for this one.

In better news, United hope to have Ji Sung Park available again, and Johnny Evans is match fit.  They could be set for a place on the bench.

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The line up:

As for the team who might play – Berbatov hasn’t started the last of the three games, so he could come in to the side in place of Wayne Rooney.  Rooney may be due a rest with the fixtures that are coming up over the next few weeks.  Javier Hernandez is the goal threat at the moment, and his two goals in midweek will make if difficult for him to be cast aside.

The midfield will, once again, be under observation – a likely partnership of Gibson and Carrick, will take to the field due to injuries and suspensions elsewhere, unless Giggs is slotted in.  Valencia has made two substitute appearances in a week, and looked like he has never been away.  He could make his first start since September on the right, with Nani attacking Steinsson on the left.  Martin Pertrov is another one of Bolton’s star players this season, and he could cause problems to a United team who will be made up of a good number of fringe players.

Wes Brown and Chris Smalling may continue at centre back, although Johnny Evans may come in to the centre, with Brown on the right.  Whether Evans is ready to be thrust straight in to the side, against a powerful front duo of Elmander and Davies is another story.

Fast facts:

  • Bolton have only won one of their previous 16 visits to Old Trafford in the Premiership
  • United have beaten Bolton in 10 out of the last 12 meetings
  • In the fixture at Old Trafford in 2003, an exciting new teenager by the name of Cristiano Ronaldo made his debut as a sub for the reds, and wowed the crowd with a small taster of things to come
  • Bolton are undefeated in their last 4 away matches, whilst the reds have won 11 home games on the bounce

Ref watch:

With a name like Andre Marriner, you could be forgiven for expecting a referee who is all at sea.  But he was awarded the Manchester derby at Old Trafford this season, which was the last time he took charge of a game that involved the reds.  An official who is sometimes considered as card happy – he’s only produced three reds this season, and 96 yellow cards in 29 games.  Just over three yellow cards per game.

He’s not been caught up in controversy either, and hopefully he’ll let the football take centre stage tomorrow, where an expectant United crowd will be looking to re-ignite their Premiership season with three easy point.

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