Bournemouth hosted Manchester United for a Wednesday night Premier League game of little significance for either side other than pride and confidence. The Cherries were looking to bounce back from a comprehensive thrashing by Liverpool last time out, while the Red Devils needed to make amends for their shock defeat to West Brom.
A cagey start to the game
It was clear from Jose Mourinho’s team selection that Manchester United had one eye on their FA Cup semi-final clash with Tottenham on Saturday, which allowed Bournemouth to start the game on the front foot. Josh King in particular was lively early on for the Cherries and they dominated the early exchanges, seeing a lot of the ball in United’s half. There were few chances in the opening 10 minutes however, despite the control that Eddie Howe’s side exerted on the game, and the visitors dealt well with the pressure for the most part. Jordan Ibe went closest after some good build-up play from Charlie Daniels and Callum Wilson, but the winger dragged his shot a few yards wide of the post.
Eventually United did grow into the game and the pace of Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial up top allowed them to look a constant threat on the break. With Paul Pogba and Marouane Fellaini in the midfield, Mourinho’s side also looked dangerous from set pieces thanks to their aerial advantage. It was Martial who looked the most likely to make something happen however as he drive into the left hand side of the Bournemouth box on multiple occasions.
Smalling opens the scoring for Manchester United
The game became somewhat of an end-to-end affair after the 20-minute mark as both sides seemed to find more space and time on the ball. It was Bournemouth who seemed to benefit and they had two decent chances snuffed out in quick succession by some good defensive work from Phil Jones. Up the other end Marcus Rashford had the best chance of the game after he managed to wriggle free from Nathan Ake’s challenge. The England international drove into the right side of the box and smashed a shot back across goal, only to be denied by a smart save from Asmir Begovic.
Moments after that chance the Red Devils did manage to break the deadlock through Chris Smalling, whose prolific goal scoring form away from home continued. An expert pass from Ander Herrera slipped Lingard in down the right flank and the winger squared the ball past the keeper to Smalling, who tapped it home into the empty net. It was a simply crafted and well-executed goal and one that gave United a hard-fought lead. The visitors shut up shop following the opener, shutting down every Bournemouth attack and ultimately heading into the break with their lead in tact.
Bournemouth’s penalty appeals are ignored
Manchester United came out for the second half looking to double their lead as quickly as possible. Mourinho had clearly instructed his team to play at a much higher tempo than they had in the first period and they probed the Bournemouth defence relentlessly. Anthony Martial again looked dangerous on the left flank but he could never seem to find the right final ball to open up the Cherries’ back line. Lingard, Rashford and Paul Pogba began to develop a good rapport as the hour mark approached and their passing play in midfield was intricate and dynamic.
For all of United’s dominance however it was the home side that went closest after the break. A drilled cross from Josh King found Callum Wilson just a few yards from goal but the striker somehow managed to mistime his effort and send the ball curling away from the goal. The Bournemouth players appealed for a penalty as Luke Shaw made a clumsy tackle during that passage of play, but the referee waved it away. Eddie Howe’s men continued to push zealously for an equaliser and they had another penalty appeal ignored as King was pulled back in the box by Jones.
Lukaku doubles United’s lead late on
Typically however Manchester United managed to grab a goal on the counter, very much against the run of play and after some good spells of pressure from Bournemouth. It was Romelu Lukaku, on as a substitute, who found the back of the net after being slipped in brilliantly by Pogba. The Belgian lifted a deft finish over the onrushing Begovic, doubling United’s advantage and seemingly putting the game out of reach of Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth side. It was another well-worked goal from Mourinho’s men and one that further proved their frightening ability on the counter.
Having all but wrapped up the game with their second goal, United unsurprisingly looked to close out the game and retain their clean sheet in order to give themselves even more confidence heading into their game against Tottenham at the weekend. In the end it was easy enough to seal the win as the wind had left Bournemouth’s sails, and Manchester United ran out as deserved winners at the Liberty Stadium, claiming another three points.
This game was a frustrating one for Bournemouth as they looked the better side for large spells, attacking the United goal with gusto and dynamism. That has been symptomatic of their season however as Eddie Howe’s men have often looked impressive with their expansive attacking football, without being able to convert it into points. They should be safe however and in truth have had another impressive season, so this result won’t likely worry them.
For Manchester United this was the perfect way to bounce back from their shock defeat to West Brom last time out. Two goals in their favour and a clean sheet will do wonders for their confidence and will provide the perfect tonic for a second place finish in the league behind their eternal rivals Manchester City. This was a result typical of Jose Mourinho’s United and one that was, in the end, fairly routine.
Bournemouth: Begovic, Francis, S. Cook, Ake, Daniels, Fraser, L. Cook, Surman (Gosling, 75’), Ibe (Mousset, 56’), King (Defoe, 83’), Wilson
Manchester United: de Gea, Darmian, Smalling, Jones, Shaw, Fellaini, Herrera (Matic, 72’), Pogba (Blind, 80’), Lingard (Lukaku, 63’), Rashford, Martial
Goals: Smalling (0-1, 28’), Lukaku (0-2, 70’)
Referee: Graham Scott
Yellow Cards: L. Cook (49’), Smalling (61’), S. Cook (62’), Surman (68’)
Red Cards: None
Bournemouth: Begovic 6, Francis 6, S. Cook 6, Ake 7, Daniels 6, Fraser 6, L. Cook 6, Surman 6 (Gosling n/a), Ibe 6 (Mousset n/a), King 6 (Defoe n/a), Wilson 5.5
Manchester United: de Gea 6, Darmian 7, Smalling 8, Jones 7, Shaw 6.5, Fellaini 6.5, Herrera 7.5 (Matic n/a), Pogba 8 (Blind n/a), Lingard 7.5 (Lukaku n/a), Rashford 7, Martial 7
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