AFC Bournemouth welcome Manchester United and their new manager Jose Mourinho to the Vitality Stadium on Sunday afternoon as the new Premier League season gets underway.
United, who have recently re-signed Paul Pogba for a world record transfer fee, will be hoping for a winning start to the new campaign on a ground where they lost 2-1 last December. With Eric Bailly, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Zlatan Ibrahimovic also joining the Red Devils during this summer’s transfer window, Cherries manager Eddie Howe is looking forward to what promises to be an exciting match.
He said: “It’s a fantastic game for us. I certainly don’t and I know the club doesn’t take these games for granted. It’s our second year in the Premier League and we’re privileged to host everyone that comes here, but this is going to be a special game.”
When asked about the arrivals of Ibrahimovic and Pogba, Howe spoke of his delight that the league is starting to attract the biggest names in the game again.
“I’m pleased that the big players, the best players are coming here. I embrace that and I think it’s great for the league. It’s not so great for us when you play against them, but you’re testing yourselves against the very best in the world.”
After establishing themselves in England’s top division last season, Howe expects the league to be more difficult this time around but believes his side will respond to the challenge ahead.
“Well I’m expecting it to be harder. I think the novelty value will have gone from our players’ perspective, that’s a challenge for us. I think the quality of the league’s gone up when you look at the managers that have come in, the players that have been attracted to the league and the money that has been spent.
“I think we’ve improved but I think everyone else will have also improved. The challenge is going to be tougher and we need to make sure we respond.”
Finishing in a respectable 16th position in their first campaign in the top flight, Howe’s main target is building on last season’s points tally. With 11 wins from their 38 games, finishing only eight points behind Mourinho’s former club Chelsea, the Bournemouth manager will be “more than happy” this year if his side can improve their home form and maintain their away performances.
The summer transfer window remains open and having already signed the likes of Liverpool duo Jordan Ibe and Brad Smith, speculation has mounted that Howe is still in the market for players following the departures of former Cherries captain Tommy Elphick and fans favourite Matt Ritchie. The 38-year-old admitted: “We haven’t finished our business, that’s not to say we’re definitely going to sign anybody but we’re hopeful that we can add one, maybe two to the squad.”
On the signings the club has already brought in, Howe said: “They’ve done very well. I’ve been pleased with everybody. It’s not easy to come into this club when you’re a new player, especially as a young player because the demands are very high, but they’ve all impressed. They’re going to have a big part to play in our future.”
Sunday’s meeting between the two sides will see Howe and Mourinho go head-to-head for only the second time in their careers, with the Bournemouth manager winning their previous battle last December as Cherries beat Chelsea 1-0 at Stamford Bridge. However, according to Howe that statistic is irrelevant, and he was full of praise for his opposite number.
“I think he’s one of the best managers in the world. He’s at a new club, he’s at one of the biggest clubs in the world. It’s a really good match for them and for him. In terms of our individual battle it’s not important.”
Bournemouth’s success on the south coast last season against a United side managed by Louis van Gaal will have no bearing on Howe’s preparations for the same fixture this time around. Anticipating a non-identical approach from Mourinho and his men, he said: “I think they’ll be totally different. They’ll be coached differently, I think they’ll play differently, they might have different systems, so I don’t think you can read anything into last year. I expect a totally different game.”
Howe added: “You could pick any player in United’s team as a threat. We’re well aware of the test we have in front of us but hopefully we give as good as we get.”
Cherries team news
Winger Junior Stanislas will definitely not feature against the Red Devils, and defender Tyrone Mings, who missed almost the whole of last season, remains out until late September. Callum Wilson is likely to start up front.
AFC Bournemouth v Manchester United takes place at the Vitality Stadium on Sunday 14th August 2016. Kick-off is at 1.30pm.