BOURNEMOUTH, December 11- In desperate need of a lift following their Champions League elimination in mid-week, Manchester United visit Bournemouth in the Premier League on Saturday in the grip of a selection crisis.
Midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger has been hit with a three-game ban and United manager Louis van Gaal could also be without up to six senior defenders for the trip to the south coast.
Van Gaal has been pilloried after United’s 3-2 defeat at Wolfsburg on Tuesday condemned them to a group-stage exit from the Champions League, but winger Jesse Lingard believes the criticism has been overplayed.
“Playing for Manchester United comes with a lot of pressure,” said Lingard, whose side go into the weekend in fourth place in the table, three points below leaders Leicester City.
“If you’re out of a competition, you’re going to get critics. They’re going to start saying stuff. We’ve got to rise above that as a team, move on and concentrate on the next game.
“We just need to stay positive. We’re creating a lot of chances, we’re just lacking that end product. But we’re working on it and hopefully that will come in the next game.”
Schweinsteiger is out of the game, and his side’s following two fixtures, after accepting a Football Association charge of violent conduct on Thursday.
He was punished retrospectively for elbowing Winston Reid during last Saturday’s 0-0 draw at home to West Ham United, but his ban will be completed in time for Chelsea’s visit to Old Trafford on December 28.
Van Gaal may not be too concerned about the absence of the Germany captain, who he substituted at Wolfsburg, having earlier criticised his performances in public.
What will be a worry to the manager, though, is a defensive injury list that may yet force him to field three inexperienced players in his back four at Bournemouth.
– ‘Just the start’ –
Full-backs Cameron Borthwick-Johnson and Guillermo Varela, who made only their second senior appearances for United against Wolfsburg, could both start, along with 20-year-old centre-back Paddy McNair.
That is because Van Gaal could be without six defenders for the trip to the south coast after Chris Smalling picked up a groin injury and Matteo Darmian a hamstring problem in Germany.
They join long-term casualties Luke Shaw, who is recovering from a broken leg, and Antonio Valencia, who has an ankle injury, while Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones are also unavailable.
Jones has an ankle problem and Rojo confirmed this week that he has had surgery on a dislocated shoulder, which is set to keep him out of action until the new year.
Last weekend’s shock defeat of Chelsea moved Bournemouth out of the bottom three, but more importantly, the victory at the home of the reigning champions fuelled belief that the promoted club can survive.
The fact that the Stamford Bridge triumph came on the back of Bournemouth’s remarkable late recovery to claim a point against Everton in their previous game only strengthened the growing confidence within Eddie Howe’s squad.
“There has been a lot of talk about us changing our philosophy, but I’d like to think it came out on top,” said midfielder Harry Arter.
“The top teams never change their identity and that’s what we want, to improve what we do each week, not change it. Over the past three weeks, we have done that and we will be giving everything to make sure that continues.”
Arter added: “I have played my fifth game in the Premier League at Chelsea. I still have a lot more to learn and a lot of improving to do and I look forward to doing that.
“Hopefully, this was just the start for us as individuals and as a team.”