Odds: Man Utd 7/20, The Draw 15/4, Bournemouth 15/2
Manchester United entertain Bournemouth in the knowledge that they must prevail to have any chance of claiming a top-four finish whatsoever.
After blowing a 2-1 lead in their game in hand against West Ham in midweek to lose 3-2 they trail fourth-placed Manchester City by two points and a cavernous 18-strikes’ worth of goal difference.
Should United best Eddie Howe’s men at Old Trafford their efforts will mean nothing unless City fall to a resurgent Swansea in south Wales.
Louis van Gaal’s men have little option but to set about their guests with murderous intensity, paying little heed to goings on across the border.
Less pun-averse correspondents might suggest that the Cherries are there for the picking, or ripe for exploitation having long since secured their Premier League status for another campaign.
However, in truth they are beyond ripe, more soft and fetid, oozing juices from their innards as they decompose into a sugary mess.
Bournemouth have lost five of their last seven across all competitions, with the only win during that sequence coming thanks to Aston Villa.
Even every-bit-as-half-way-holidaying West Brom managed to get within eight minutes of three points at their expense at the Vitality Stadium last time out.
United have little excuse for avenging the defeat they suffered at the Cherries hands in the reverse fixture back in December.
Win, Lose or Draw?
Louis van Gaal’s pupils are in fine nick at the Theatre of Dreams with not a defeat to stir the faithful from their reveries in ten outings, seven of which were won.
Such is the imbalance of motivation between the Champions League-chasing hosts and their nothing-to-play-for guests that anything other than a home win would be more surprising than the a unilateral declaration of world peace.
As much is reflected in the prohibitive 4/11 odds available for a Reds’ victory.
Those in search of a more palatable price may wish to go in search of may prefer to ignore the fact that Bournemouth have bagged in four of their last six Premier League away games.
United have conceded just twice in their last seven top flight outings at Old Trafford and should prove capable of shutting out a Cherries strikeforce that banked not a iota from recent clashes with Tottenham and Man City.
Old Trafford tickets have rewarded their bearers with three goals or more in a mere five of the last 21 games at the stadium.
All bar one of those came when both teams found the net, meaning that, if a shutout success is forecast that total is unlikely to be added to against Bournemouth.
United’s last seven home games in succession have rewarded those who steer south of the 2.5-goal line.
Who will do the damage?
Anthony Martial incredibly unflappable finishing ability has been well and truly in evidence in recent weeks in making an undeniable case for inclusion in Didier Deschamps France squad for Euro 2016.
The Frenchman netted twice against West Ham last time out to take his total to four in as many games and 17 in 47 outings across the campaign as a whole. He’s also netted in four of his last six outings in front of the Old Trafford partisans.
United have mustered no fewer than eight Premier League 1-0 wins this season, more than any other side in the division, even serial victors by the slenderest margin Leicester.
Meanwhile, three of Bournemouth’s last five fixtures were decided by the odd goal.