Manchester United 1-0 Bournemouth: Lukaku back in the goals as Mourinho’s men return to victory
Manchester United bounced back from their disappointing derby day defeat to rivals Manchester City as Romelu Lukaku’s first-half goal was enough to see off a spirited Bournemouth on Wednesday night.
With an 11-point gap opened up courtesy of City’s victory at Old Trafford on Sunday, Jose Mourinho knew his side could ill-afford to drop any more points or the title race could be all-but over already.
Torrential conditions on Wednesday evening made that task an awful lot harder against a well-drilled Bournemouth outfit, but Lukaku scored a powerful header to give the hosts an early lead.
They didn’t have it all their own way though, and they were once again indebted to an inspired goalkeeping display from David de Gea after he kept out Charlie Daniels and Junior Stanislas well.
United had a glorious opportunity to seal the win after the break when Anthony Martial somehow scooped over from six-yards, and substitute Marcus Rashford rattled the frame of the goal with a thunderous 25-yard effort, but De Gea saved twice from Jermain Defoe to secure a key three points.
Manchester City’s 4-0 thumping of Swansea City ensures that they maintain their 11-point advantage over their city rivals, whilst Bournemouth remain two points above the relegation zone in 16th place.
United bounce back in underwhelming fashion
It may not have been pretty, or vintage, but it was efficient.
In Jose Mourinho’s post-match interview the Portuguese tactician said that the main objective of Bournemouth’s visit was to respond to their humbling derby day defeat, making note of the importance of not losing ‘two in a row’, and the workmanlike manner of the victory certainly backs this up.
The hosts managed just two shots on target, only narrowly shading possession with 56%, and Bournemouth will be disappointed that they couldn’t leave Old Trafford with something to show.
But with the games starting to pile up, and a huge deficit to make up to City, it’s not so much about the manner of win but instead more about getting the three points itself to keep on their coat tails.
The fact that both Liverpool and Arsenal dropped points against bottom-half opposition on Wednesday shows the obstacles the top sides face week-in, week-out, and Mourinho will be delighted with his win.
One man who will also be feeling a little more positive this morning is Romelu Lukaku, who got himself on the scoresheet for only the second time in nine league games with a thumping header.
The Belgian has come in for a lot of criticism after his derby day display – gifting City their goals with some poor defensive work before missing a gilt-edged late chance – and his reluctance to celebrate his opener perhaps highlighted the strain and the pressure that he’s been put under in recent times.
It was a finish that we have become accustomed to seeing from the tall striker, rising highest and leaving Asmir Begovic with no chance, and he’ll hope that he can finally kick-on after his dry patch and start a run.
Bournemouth left to rue missed opportunity
Last season Bournemouth were one of the sides who came to Old Trafford and left with a battling point and there wouldn’t have been many in the ground that would’ve begrudged a similar outcome last night.
From the first whistle the Cherries showed that they didn’t come to just sit back and soak up home pressure, and as the match went on it was fairly clear to see they were the team pressing the most.
Boss Eddie Howe will no doubt be buoyed by his side’s performance in tough conditions – despite falling on the wrong end of the score-line – and Bournemouth will currently be thinking ‘what if’ after Charlie Daniels, Junior Stanislas, Ryan Fraser and Jermain Defoe were all denied by the irrepressible De Gea.
The Manchester United number one made seven saves on the night, and the fact that opposite number Asmir Begovic only made two tells its own story of which goalkeeper was the busier one.
The tough matches come thick and fast for the south coast side with Liverpool, Chelsea and leaders Manchester City to come in their next three fixtures, but based on Wednesday’s showing there’s little reason for them to fear the top sides as long as they can discover a clinical edge in front of goal.
McTominay and Shaw take their chance
With the fixture list starting to ramp up heading into Christmas, last night offered Jose Mourinho opportunity to rest some of his players after a gruelling clash with Manchester City at the weekend.
Ashley Young and Ander Herrera were amongst those given a break, opening the door for both Luke Shaw and young midfielder Scott McTominay to make their respective first Premier League appearances of the season, and both would have left boss Mourinho with something to think about at the full-time whistle.
Shaw was a particular highlight in United’s recent Champions League victory against CSKA Moscow and he picked up where he left off against the Cherries, looking confident and disciplined in defence.
It was McTominay – filling in whilst Paul Pogba sees out his suspension – who caught the eye the most though, working nicely alongside Nemanja Matic and providing sterling protection for the back-four.
The 21-year-old made three timely interceptions and ended the match with a 91% pass completion rate, also touching the ball 61 times in the middle, and he could have done enough to warrant another start at West Brom this coming Sunday.
After making a number of cup competition appearances this season too it is becoming more and more likely that McTominay could be the next to emerge from an esteemed line of academy products at United.