It’s crazy how one tiny little change can turn a whole season around, for better or worse. And that’s exactly what has happened with Manchester United over the past few weeks.
Following the departure of Jose Mourinho, who was sacked following the 2-1 loss at Valencia in the Champions League earlier this month, the team appointed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as caretaker manager… and the move couldn’t have worked out better for The Red Devils. Under the Norwegian’s tutelage, the Old Trafford have won three straight games, most recently this Sunday against Bournemouth. A brace from Paul Pogba and strikes from Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku lifted Manchester United to a huge win at home. And it was one with 10 players since Eric Bailly got sent off midway into the second half.
A blistering start pays dividends for Manchester United
The Reds were coming off consecutive wins over Cardiff and Huddersfield, and only needed five minutes to break the deadlock in this one. Rashford showed his skill leaving two Bournemouth defenders behind and placed the ball towards the middle, where Pogba only needed it to tap it home from close range. The Englishman was the architect of this one, but Pogba deserves credit as well. His play has risen considerably over the past few weeks, and that might not have been a concidence…
United kept pounding and Bournemouth looked unable to pose much of a threat in the final third. The Red Devils took advantage of that, and doubled their lead in the 33rd minute when a cross from Ander Herrera found Pogha. The Frenchman rose higher than everyone else and nodded the ball home. It was Pogba’s fourth goal in his past two matches, and for the first time in quite a while, he’s looking like the dominant midfielder that used to amaze the world at Juventus.
United close the game in the first 45 minutes
Bournemouth tried to react, but their lack of ideas was alarming and they only managed to threaten United with aerial balls into the box. Meanwhile, The Red Devils added a third strike in the 45th minute when a lobbed pass from Anthony Martial found Rashford inside the six-yard box. The talented youngster stretched himself, but managed to touch the ball just in time to deflect it into the box. Towering defender Nathan Ake pulled one back on stoppage time for Bournemouth, but United were comfortably on top 3-1 at the break.
Solskjaer’s men dominate the second half to seal the deal comfortably
The Red Devils controlled the game after the break and seemed dangerous from start to finish. However, they had to wait until late in the second half to bolster their lead. Romelu Lukaku, who had been absent from the squad in recent weeks, closed the score in the 72nd minute. The Belgian striker took advantage of a perfect pass from Pogba and placed it out of the keeper’s reach with a right-footed effort. That goal should boost Lukaku’s confidence inmensely and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Manchester United need him at his best if they want to contiune making a Top 4 finish.
There was still one final piece of action, however, as Eric Bailly got sent off in the 79th minute due to a straight red card. The Ivorian will miss United’s upcoming match against Newcastle United, but should be back to face Tottenham on January 13. Fortunately for The Red Devils, the team has enough depth at the back to replace him for one game. Especially since Chris Smalling could be back in time for that match.
All things considered, it was a huge win for Manchester United. One that does nothing but confirming their rise following Solskjaer’s arrival.
Manchester United: De Gea (6); Young (7), Bailly (5), Lindelof (6), Shaw (7); Herrera (7) (Andreas (-), 76′), Matic (6); Lingard (6), Pogba (9), Martial (7) (Jones (-), 82′); Rashford (8) (Lukaku (7), 70′)
Bench: Romero (GK), Darmian, Fellaini, Juan Mata
Bournemouth: Begovic (4); Cook (5), Ake (6) (Mings (-), 82′), Daniels (4); Ibe (5), Brooks (6) (Mousset (5), 66′), Surman (5), Stanislas (4), Rico (5); King (5), Wilson (4) (Fraser (6), 66′)
Bench: Boruc (GK), Simpson, Lerma, Defoe
Goals: Pogba (1-0, 5′), Pogba (2-0, 33′), Rashford (3-0, 45′), Ake (3-1, 45+2′), Lukaku (4-1, 72′)
Referee: Lee Mason
Yellow Cards: Young, Herrera (Man Utd)
Red Cards: Bailly (Man Utd)
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