LONDON • In desperate need of a lift following their Champions League elimination in midweek, Manchester United visit Bournemouth in the Premier League today with nine first-team players ruled out.
Midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger has been hit with a three-game ban and Louis van Gaal is also without six senior defenders for the trip to the south coast.
Centre-back Chris Smalling (groin) and full-back Matteo Darmian (hamstring) were the latest casualties from United's 3-2 defeat at Wolfsburg on Tuesday. They joined fellow defenders Luke Shaw, Antonio Valencia, Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones on the sidelines.
While the fitness of the United squad is a concern for van Gaal, the Dutchman is unfazed by the growing criticism of his management.
"No. I don't have any doubts," he told a press conference yesterday after he was asked if he had any doubts about himself following the Champions League exit.
Manchester United are fourth and near the top of the league, for me there is no great panic at Manchester United.
EDDIE HOWE , Bournemouth manager
"You can lose and you can win in sport, and you have to accept that, as a player and as a manager. But you have to work very hard and I am working very hard and my players are working very hard and doing everything we can do.
"The problem is that we have to meet the expectations and the expectations at a club like Manchester United are very high, and that's our problem."
Former United defender Rio Ferdinand called the club's drop into the Europa League an embarrassment. And it appears the result was enough to prompt United players from cancelling their Christmas party, reported the Daily Mail.
But with United still fourth in the Premier League, Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe has dismissed the idea that today's opponents are in crisis.
Howe, whose struggling side stunned champions Chelsea with a 1-0 victory at Stamford Bridge last weekend, says his team cannot afford to be lulled into false security by talk of United's struggles.
"Everything in the modern day is over-dramatised and hyped," he said. "Manchester United are fourth and near the top of the league, for me there is no great panic at Manchester United.
"They would consider themselves in a very good position to win the league this season.
"We know how difficult this game will be, we know the level we have to get to to compete.
"All I would say is that hopefully if we can match those levels (from the Chelsea game) again, it is in our hands."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
BOURNEMOUTH V MAN UNITED
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