Sir Alex Ferguson’s side have lost major ground in their fight to dispossess rivals City at the Premier League summit after losing to Blackburn and Newcastle in consecutive games. Defeat against bottom side Rovers was a real shock to the system for United as it was a game they expected to win with ease. The same could be said for their loss in the North East with their defensive frailties being exposed for all to see against the Magpies. Rio Ferdinand and Phil Jones left Tyneside battered and bruised after being roughed up by Demba Ba and Shola Ameobi. The loss of Nemanja Vidic for the rest of the season has been a major blow with his physical presence proving the perfect foil to the technical abilities of Jones and Ferdinand. Midfield has also been a burning issue for the Red Devils although that has been remedied to a degree with Ferguson convincing Paul Scholes to come out of retirement until the end of the season. The Scot will demanding his players rediscover the form that saw them win five consecutive games during December and put themselves back in the title hunt.
Bolton are also desperate for a win and head to Old Trafford seeking back-to-back victories for the first time this season. Owen Coyle’s men were successful in their last outing picking up a priceless three points away at Everton coming from behind to kick start their survival bid. Not even a bizarre goal from former United Tim Howard could derail the Trotters in their mission with goals from summer signing David N’Gog and Gary Cahill putting them just a point shy of safety. However the protracted departure of Cahill to Chelsea will be another blow to Coyle who has seen his side struggle to match the performances that took them to an FA Cup semi final last season. Stopping teams from scoring has been their main problem during the campaign conceding 43 goals in 20 games and come up against a United side spoiling after two defeats on the trot.
Manchester United 2nd : 45 points
Last six: L L W W W W
Team news: The champions have been decimated by injuries in recent weeks and will host their North West rivals without eight first team players.
Key Player: Patrice Evra
With Sir Alex Ferguson constantly having to chop and change his back four Evra has been a pillar of consistency during the Old Trafford injury crisis. Despite holding the United defence together at times the Frenchman’s performances have remained consistently high.
Bolton Wanderers 18th: 16 points
Last six: W D L W L L
Team news: Bolton are still without Jussi Jaaskelainen along with six other first team players.
Key Player: Ivan Klasnic
In a season of struggle the goal scoring form of Klasnic has been one of the few bright spots for Bolton in the first half of the season. The Croatian has found the net eight times already and will be hoping he can add to that at Old Trafford.
Despite Bolton’s win away at Everton last week there is no way they’ll be able to repeat what Blackburn did at Old Trafford. United are itching to set the record straight after two defeats on the spin and know they need three points to stay in the title race.