Although third-place Manchester United is undefeated in the English Premier League (EPL) this season with 11 points in five games, they’ve yet to kick things into high gear. The team has scored 14 goals, but is struggling in their own end by conceding seven.
They’ve blown two-goal leads in three of their games and its cost them four points so far. They can’t afford to drop any more if they hope to catch league leaders Chelsea and regain the EPL crown.
This makes their away game against 13th-place Bolton on Sept. 25 a huge one as they hope to make up some points in the title race -- if Chelsea slips up at Manchester City this weekend. Bolton is one of the EPL’s many mediocre teams and has just six points from five games so far with a win, three draws and a loss.
United striker Wayne Rooney’s been struggling this season and has only one goal, which came from the penalty spot. The club should thankful that Dmitar Berbatov’s found his scoring touch early in the season or they would be a lot further than four points behind Chelsea. Striker Michael Owen scored twice in a 5-2 Carling Cup win over Championship side Scunthorpe in midweek and that should boost his confidence if he’s called upon against Bolton.
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As for Bolton, they were embarrassed in midweek as they were knocked out of the Carling Cup 1-0 by manager Owen Coyle's former team, Burnley. Bolton has only one win this season and it was against woeful West Ham. However, they’ve only lost one game as well and that was a 4-1 thumping against Arsenal.
Bolton’s last win against United came in 2007 and it’s unlikely that streak will end this weekend. Jussi Jaaskelainen and Kevin Davies will be available after serving suspensions, but defender Gary is still serving his. Andy O'Brien will likely miss the game due to an ankle injury, so Sam Ricketts will probably take his place. Sean Davis and Joey O’Brien look like they’ll miss the match too with injuries.
United should have defender Rio Ferdinand back in the lineup, but the way he’s been playing the last couple of years that might be a detriment. If Ferdinand plays, Jonny Evans will likely sit. Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs have re-found their youth and have started the year well, but the team’s still struggling defensively for some reason.
Berbatov and Rooney will be relied upon for offence and United should be able to bang in at least two against Bolton, but a 3-1 score line might be a good bet. Michael Carrick, Owen Hargreaves, and Antonio Valencia will all miss the game because of injuries.