Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez need to step up as Man United take on Bournemouth

Aditya Devavrat 09:17 30/12/2018
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Manchester United host Bournemouth on Sunday looking to make it three wins from three under caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The two sides played out a hard-fought game earlier in the season, with Marcus Rashford popping up with a late winner for United.

Here’s a look at the talking points ahead of Sunday’s game.

LUKAKU, SANCHEZ NEED TO STEP UP

Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku are the only two first-team attackers still waiting to make their first appearances under the new manager, having missed Solskjaer’s first two games due to injury and compassionate leave respectively.

The Norwegian has issued both a challenge, demanding that they step up, take their chances, and give him a selection headache. At the moment, when they’re fit, Rashford, Anthony Martial, and Jesse Lingard are the first-choice front three.

That’s two academy graduates in Rashford and Lingard, and two players 23 or younger in Martial and Rashford, keeping out a £75 million signing, Lukaku, and Sanchez, who around two years ago was one of the top five players in the Premier League.

And that pecking order had been established even before Sanchez and Lukaku were forced to miss games.

The Chilean has never displayed his Arsenal form at United – arguably, he’s only had one truly good game, against Tottenham in the FA Cup semi-final.

Meanwhile, Lukaku probably cost Jose Mourinho his job. The Belgian missed a host of big chances early in the season, and United’s campaign would look a lot different had he taken them.

They’re available for Sunday’s fixture. Time to step up.

EYES OUT FOR MORE YOUNG PLAYER SIGHTINGS

Along with his positivity, another aspect of Solskjaer that United fans have loved is his understanding of the club’s traditions, especially when it comes to young players.

Against Huddersfield, United ended the game with a front four of Rashford, Lingard, Angel Gomes, and Paul Pogba, four academy products.

The 18-year-old Gomes was making just his second Premier League appearance – he was given his debut under Mourinho in May 2017, one more for the Portuguese to add to his list of young players to debut under him – and is among the club’s more promising talents. He insists there’s more to come after his Boxing Day appearance.

Midfielder James Garner was, along with Gomes, part of the United squad that travelled to Cardiff for Solskjaer’s managerial debut. Defender Ro-Shaun Williams and midfielder DJ Buffonge were spotted in first-team training ahead of Sunday’s fixture. Meanwhile, striker Mason Greenwood has been catching the eye at United, with Solskjaer having already singled out the youngster for praise, and he isn’t far away from a debut.

If United run up the score again like they did against Cardiff and Huddersfield, expect Gomes or one of his colleagues to get on the pitch.

EDDIE HOWE’S DECADE OF EXCELLENCE

Monday will mark 10 years since Eddie Howe was first named Bournemouth manager, at 31 then the youngest manager in all of the Football League. He still holds that distinction in the top flight, if only by a few months over Everton’s Marco Silva.

Howe’s, and Bournemouth’s journey since then has been well chronicled. The young Englishman took over on New Year’s Eve 2008; heading into the final home game of that season, the club were in danger of being relegated from the Football League, only to beat Grimsby Town and secure their status.

He led Bournemouth to promotion to League One the following season, his first full season in charge, and, after leaving the club in the 2010/11 season, returned in 2012 to pull them out of another relegation battle and earn promotion to the Championship.

Premier League status arrived in 2015, and since then, Howe has been one of the league’s highest-rated managers.

There’s talk that if United lure Mauricio Pochettino, Howe could be the man to take over at Tottenham.

He’s an outside candidate for the United job itself.

For now, however, it’s time to simply appreciate what he’s accomplished at Bournemouth.

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