It's not a match to look forward to. Manchester United have won 12 of the last 14 matches against Bolton, including all of the last 8 matches at Old Trafford.The last time Bolton won away to United was 10 long years ago in September of 2001. But it's not all bad. 4 of Bolton's 5 wins this season have been away from the Reebok and the Red Devils are looking rather vulnerable now, having come off two losses, one of which was to Blackburn who are even lower in the table than Bolton. If there was a good time to make the trip to the Theatre of Dreams, it would be now.
Bolton's last 2 results also bode well for this, a spirited comeback for all 3 points away to Everton, and a decent display to force a replay in the FA Cup against Macclesfield. While they don't sound impressive on their own, in the larger context of the Trotter's dismal season, the fact that they came back after conceding twice in a row is a very good sign, especially considering that when playing Manchester United, conceding is almost definite.
The fact that the back four will be without the ever-solid Gary Cahill makes this prediction surer, as the combination of Zat Knight and David Wheater does not exactly inspire confidence. Sam Ricketts and Paul Robinson should make up the fullbacks, as while Joe Riley did well in the chances he's been given, this is a huge game and he lacks experience. A strong midfield will be key as in the reverse fixture, lack of possession there lead to regression to the long ball. A 5 man midfield with the usual suspects of Chris Eagles and Martin Petrov on the wings, and a middle 3 of Mark Davies, Fabrice Muamba, and Nigel Reo-Coker should at least stand a chance in this regard. As for the striker, it would be hard to pick anyone but David Ngog, who is undoubtedly the most in form front man Coyle has at the moment.
United will push hard for the result, the record of 3 consecutive losses for the first time since December 2001 is not one Alex Ferguson will be after. A combination of speed and and commanding the midfield gave United a 5-0 win at the Reebok this season, a formula they won't want to change. Fergie has a plethora of enviable strikers at his disposal, including Chicharito and Dimitar Berbatov, but Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck are expected to start. Against a team like United with a manager like Fergie, half the match is mind games, something the Bolton boys have proved very susceptible to, but if they carry the confidence from the past two matches into this, they're in with a chance.
Old Trafford is not a place you expect to get points, but considering how this season has gone, Bolton needs the points, wherever they're coming from. When you hit bottom, there's nowhere left to fall, and the Trotters have certainly hit bottom this season. It's time to see if they can bounce back up and salvage the second half of the season, or whether Championship football really does await, and Old Trafford seems as good of a place to test that as any.