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

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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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Will any of Lukaku, Sanchez and Martial start for Man United v Bournemouth?

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Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez and Anthony Martial will be assessed ahead of Manchester United‘s Premier League clash with Bournemouth.

Lukaku and Sanchez have missed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first two matches as caretaker manager, while illness kept Martial out against Huddersfield having scored against Cardiff.

Chris Smalling faces a further fortnight on the sidelines with a foot complaint, but Scott McTominay, Marcos Rojo and Antonio Valencia are closing in on a return.

Provisional squad: De Gea, Romero, Grant, Dalot, Darmian, Valencia, Shaw, Young, Bailly, Jones, Rojo, Fred, Garner, Gomes, Matic, Pereira, Herrera, McTominay, Pogba, Lingard, Fellaini, Mata, Rashford, Martial, Lukaku, Sanchez.

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Ryan Giggs hails Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's early impact at Man United

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Manchester United great Ryan Giggs has hailed the impact of caretaker manager and his former team-mate Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The Norwegian has overseen a fine start to the post-Jose Mourinho era, having just last week been parachuted into the hotseat for the remainder of the season.

Solskjaer followed the 5-1 triumph at former club Cardiff – the first time United had netted five in a league match since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 – with another comprehensive win against Huddersfield on Boxing Day.

Giggs, the club’s last caretaker manager, was among the star names in attendance for the 3-1 win and has been impressed by the immediate impact made by his former team-mate.

“Ole’s first home game and especially the positivity that came from the Cardiff game, the performance and the result, I think everyone was looking forward to the game,” the 45-year-old said.

“And the big players are turning up – (Paul) Pogba with the goals, David (De Gea) with a great save and Marcus (Rashford) just getting better and better each game.

“So, there’s a real positivity around the place, which we need that to carry on now going into the Bournemouth game.”

While few would consider beating Cardiff and Huddersfield as a true yardstick with which to measure true success and progress for a club like United, it has undoubtedly been a step in the right direction.

Solskjaer has released the shackles and made a striking impact in a short period, having only arrived from Norwegian club Molde last week.

The 45-year-old has barely stopped smiling since the confirmation of his temporary appointment as manager – the kind of role Giggs always felt the treble hero of 1999 would be suited to.

“Yeah, I did because he was always quietly confident, believed in his own ability – and even though people think he’s a nice guy, you know he’s got an edge to him, which you need as manager,” the United great said.

“As he got more experienced, especially when he had that injury and a bit of time out, it’s quite well-documented that he used to take notes of little things that Sir Alex would do.

“So, yeah, I believed that he would go into coaching and he’s doing a great job, obviously.”

Next comes Bournemouth’s visit to Old Trafford on Sunday as United look to dent the eight-point gap to the top four.

“Well, you’ve seen in a short space of time what’s happened with Liverpool and (Manchester) City,” Wales manager Giggs told MUTV.

“That can happen, and the good thing is there are a lot of games to go.

“But still you can’t get ahead of yourself.

“It’s a tough league you’ve seen today it wasn’t easy at times, but you can see what happens in football.

“We used to do it 10 or 12 points behind and also we were chased down at times, so as long as it is (a) mathematical (possibility) and you probably need to beat your rivals as well.

“So, a good run of games where you get your confidence up going into that Tottenham game, which will be important as well.”

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