Manchester United ran out 5-2 winners against Bournemouth at Old Trafford in a game which had big ramifications at both ends of the table.
It was an entertaining, open game which saw United's Mason Greenwood score his first Premier League double. Bruno Fernandes ran the show once again, picking up a goal and two assists, whilst Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford also got in on the act.
Despite being written off beforehand, Bournemouth showed promise throughout the game, taking advantage of United’s defensive vulnerabilities on a number of occasions. They were ultimately no match for Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s side, who scored five goals in a Premier League game for the first time since the Norwegian’s first game in charge against Cardiff.
Story of the Game
Naming an unchanged eleven for the third league game running, Solksjaer showed no signs of complacency against a team that had not won in their last seven away matches.
His side controlled much of the play early on, although it was Eddie Howe’s team who opened the scoring through Junior Stanislas, who had nutmegged Maguire and far too easily slotted it past De Gea at his near post.
Mason Greenwood leveled the scoring with a powerful left-footed strike from the inside left of the box on the 30 minute mark.
Minutes later, United were awarded a penalty after a clear handball by Adam Smith. After a VAR-related delay, Rashford, rather than Fernandes, assumed penalty duties and punished the Cherries from the spot, narrowly missing the gloves of an unfortunate Aaron Ramsdale.
Immediately after, Dominic Solanke put the ball in the back of the net, but was flagged offside by the assistant referee.
The pick of the bunch was Martial’s goal on the stroke of half-time. The Frenchman expertly curled the ball into the top-right hand corner. His fourth goal in his last three matches and his twentieth of the season, Martial is enjoying his best spell of form in a Manchester United shirt.
Bournemouth emerged from the break the much dangerous of the two sides. They almost made United pay with Lewis Cook's low shot from outside the box saved by David De Gea and the follow-up from substitute Arnaut Danjuma striking the post.
Man United’s sloppiness eventually cost them when half-time substitute Eric Bailly was adjudged by referee Mike Dean to have handled the ball when trying to control a loose pass from Nemanja Matic. VAR stuck with Dean's original decision, despite replays seeming to indicate that the ball hit the Ivorian’s shoulder. Ex-United player Josh King converted from the spot, giving his side hope of an unlikely comeback.
Bournemouth looked to have equalised when the dangerous Danjuma broke through Man United’s defensive line and cleverly toe-poked the ball past De Gea, but the goal was correctly ruled out for offside.
United finally settled down after their slow start and began carving out opportunities. Greenwood scored his second of the game, this time with a right-footed shot from just inside the box.
Fernandes capped off the victory with an excellent free-kick from just outside the area, showing United fans his deadly ability from dead ball situations.
Even after the Old Trafford side scored their fifth, they had plenty more opportunities to extend their lead even further. If it had not been for VAR and Aaron Ramsdale, the score line could have looked much worse for Bournemouth.
Solksjaer will be pleased that his team managed to extend their unbeaten run to sixteen matches and Champions League qualification looks increasingly likely.
From a Bournemouth perspective, Eddie Howe will be disappointed that they leave Old Trafford with nothing, despite managing to score two goals and threatening throughout. Another loss on the road for Bournemouth increases their fears of relegation with five games to go.
Takeaways from the match
Manchester United’s front three is a force to be reckoned with
An unchanged starting eleven saw Greenwood, Martial and Rashford line up together in the league for the third consecutive match. The chemistry between the trio is electric and they are scoring goals for fun at the moment. The amount of goals in that front line, coupled with their pace and creativity, are bound to put fear into the minds of opposition defences this season and beyond.
Pogba is getting back to his best
Whilst he will not get all the headlines, Pogba is flourishing in a deep-lying role alongside Matic. He controlled the tempo exceptionally well, whilst offering his teammates a passing outlet and providing cover defensively when necessary. The heavy pressure on Pogba seems to have eased with the arrival of Fernandes and the Frenchman is clearly benefiting as a result.
Defensive frailties are still a concern for Solksjaer
Whilst United’s scintillating attack was near-on perfect today, questions will be raised once again over their defence. As for Tottenham’s goal in the 1-1 draw, Maguire and De Gea were at fault for Bournemouth’s first goal, whilst poor play between Matic and Bailly led to Bournemouth’s penalty. If this side wants to challenge for trophies in the league, they cannot afford to be giving goals away as cheaply as that.
More to follow.