After discussions between Manchester United’s senior players and manager Louis van Gaal about how to halt its decline in form, the squad heads to Stoke under intensifying pressure to ease the scrutiny surrounding the Dutchman.
United has not won in six games, a run that stretches back to November 21, with defeats in its last three matches. It has dropped to fifth in the Premier League and has been eliminated from the Champions League.
Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney said talks have been held with Van Gaal about how to improve results, as well as team morale.
“I think it’s normal that confidence would be a bit lower,” Rooney said to Sky on Thursday. “As a group of players, we know we can do better. We regularly have meetings, myself and the other senior players in the squad and the manager as well. We are working together and trying to come up with the best solution.
“We are fighting for the manager to try and get results and turn the season around.”
Van Gaal walked out of a press conference after 4 minutes, 58 seconds on Wednesday, after becoming frustrated at reports Jose Mourinho could replace him as manager at Old Trafford.
But the best way for Van Gaal to silence the rumors is by winning matches and Stoke will provide stern opponents for United, having already beaten Chelsea and Manchester City at home this season.
Arsenal on the rise
Arsenal travels to Southampton with growing belief of mounting a serious Premier League title challenge.
It trails leader Leicester by two points and produced a commanding display to beat third-place Manchester City 2-1 at the Emirates Stadium on Monday.
Manager Arsene Wenger said in the aftermath of the victory that the win will increase Arsenal’s belief, but has since played down title talk.
“At the moment, it’s miles too early to say who will win the Premier League,” Wenger said Wednesday. “It’s down to being pragmatic, putting the effort in to win your next game and worrying about your performance.”
Arsenal is the overwhelming favourite to take three points on Saturday against a Southampton side which has drawn one and lost four of its last five league matches.
But when Ronald Koeman’s side hosted Arsenal on New Year’s Day last season, it defeated the Gunners 2-0 with a counterattacking performance.
Bournemouth is in “positive dialogue” with the Football League as it waits to discover the severity of a fine for breaking Financial Fair Play last season.
Bournemouth won the English second tier and was promoted to the Premier League for the first time in its history but exceeded the maximum adjusted loss rule of £6million ($ 9million), which was set in 2012.
“Bournemouth is fully aware of the Football League’s proposed financial sanction relating to Financial Fair Play and is currently engaged in positive dialogue with the Football League to reach a satisfactory outcome,” the club said Thursday.
Bournemouth has won its last three league games, which includes victories against Chelsea and Manchester United, and is 14th in the standings.
It is away to Crystal Palace this weekend.
Captain Kompany back for city
Manchester City has captain and central defender Vincent Kompany back to face Sunderland, as well as right-back Pablo Zabaleta.
Kompany has been absent for six weeks with a calf strain which kept him out for eight matches.
“You are always missing good players,” City manager Manuel Pellegrini said. “He’s the captain here and if he doesn’t play it’s an important player we don’t have in our squad.”
Midfielder Fernandinho is anticipating another hard encounter against Sunderland.
“They always seem to play well when they are up against us,” Fernandinho said. “We need to prepare well, concentrate throughout and give our fans the kind of performance they deserve.”
Leicester travels to Anfield to take on Liverpool, where a win would keep it first in the Premier League table. Guus Hiddink’s first game back as Chelsea manager is at Stamford Bridge against Watford.
Fourth-place Tottenham hosts Norwich, Everton travels to Newcastle and Swansea is at home against West Brom. Aston Villa, last in the Premier League, is at home to West Ham.
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