Bournemouth can inflict more pain on wounded United
Bournemouth could outrun clueless, depleted Devils
BOURNEMOUTH v MAN UNITED
(Tomorrow, 1.30am, Singtel TV Ch 102 & StarHub TV Ch 227)
Eddie Howe called Bournemouth's victory over Chelsea the best individual result in the club's history.
The Cherries could be celebrating another one tomorrow morning (Singapore time).
Manchester United are there for the taking, a mismanaged rabble masquerading as title contenders.
Wolfsburg paved the path to enlightenment in midweek, showing that teams didn't so much need a sprinkling of superstars to beat United as they did a second gear.
It's neither a marathon nor a sprint against Louis van Gaal's totem poles these days, just a gentle stroll around fixed positions.
Bournemouth need only to repeat their Chelsea trick of side-stepping the bulging wallets in central midfield to skip away with three points.
Dan Gosling and Andrew Surman, Bournemouth's tenacious anchorman, quickly discovered that while they lacked Cesc Fabregas' finesse and Nemanja Matic's hulking presence, they had other unique qualities; such as variable heart-rates.
They ran their illustrious opponents into the ground, burying the lightweight Blues beneath Bournemouth's heavy industry.
There was a sense of deja vu in Germany a few days later, when Wolfsburg essentially borrowed Bournemouth's template and added better players.
Julian Draxler left the hapless Marouane Fellaini and Bastian Schweinsteiger tiptoeing through treacle.
Man United once moved mountains in midfield. Now they topple over molehills.
Schweinsteiger is suspended after his antics against West Ham and Wayne Rooney and Ander Herrera are injured, which essentially leaves a midfield partnership of Fellaini and his afro to face the busy bees of Bournemouth.
Michael Carrick is likely to join Fellaini, the tortoise and the hair, leaving Bournemouth will little to fear but fear itself.
Shut down Carrick's passing and the Cherries turn off United's radar. Van Gaal is exceedingly light on midfield options and tactical alternatives.
In the Champions League, Nick Powell's introduction succeeded only in terrifying his teammates, the move confirming the suspicion that their manager had mislaid the plot.
Howe, on the other hand, knows exactly what he's doing at Bournemouth.
In fact, the rising manager has been accused of knowing what he's doing a little too well, insisting on an open, attacking game that pushed his fullbacks forward at every opportunity.
Without the quality to back his idealism, he had looked naive, going 10 games without a win until Chelsea imploded.
The Blues made more mistakes in front of goal than Donald Trump in front of a microphone, but Bournemouth's clean sheet was no fluke.
Their first shutout since Sept 19 owed everything to an entrenched core of Surman, centre back Steve Cook and Artur Boruc between the sticks.
All three were flawless at the Bridge, with both Cook and Boruc named in the Premier League's team of the week.
Their newfound cohesion is the last thing United need after displaying the sustained solidity of ice cubes in the Sahara against Wolfsburg.
With Chris Smalling and Matteo Darmian joining the crocked list, United are vulnerable to a second humiliation in a week.
At right back, Adam Smith tore up the turf at Stamford Bridge, showing the kind of attacking endeavour that is sorely missed at Old Trafford.
Joshua King isn't a striker blessed with Rooney's natural gifts, but he compensated against Chelsea with a dogged tenacity that was once the hallmark of the United skipper's game.
Rooney is out, of course, which leaves the Red Devils alarmingly threadbare up front. With each injury, suspension and defeat, the banana skin grows.
If Bournemouth can muster a second smart performance in a week, combining their swashbuckling tendencies with a new defensive discipline, they will beat United.
DEVILS IN DOLDRUMS
The Red Devils are utterly bereft of confidence, forced into a system they neither like nor want.
They are both shackled and sterile, with a sniff of mutiny already in the air.
According to reports, players were just as dumbfounded as the punters when the lively Juan Mata was hooked off for Powell in Germany.
Privately, some players no longer believe in their manager.
If they no longer believe in themselves, then it's a different story, with Howe's men on hand to write the latest plot twist.
Indeed, a Bournemouth victory might not be considered the best result in the club's history after all.
Back-to-backs wins against the big boys would be a superb achievement, but not a particularly surprising one. The longer van Gaal is left in charge, the easier it will be to defeat United.
BY THE NUMBERS
8 Man United have drawn 0-0 eight times in 2015 in all competitions - their highest tally in a calendar year since 2005 (10).
2 Louis van Gaal's men have won only two out of their seven league matches following Champions League games this season (drawn 3, lost 2).