Manchester United labour to narrow win over Bournemouth

Romelu Lukaku scores only goal in a muted performance on dour night at Old Trafford

Manchester United 1 AFC Bournemouth 0

After the fiery tunnel bust-up with Manchester City at the weekend came this muted Manchester United display. They claimed victory but José Mourinho’s side are misfiring as their cross-town rivals continue to coast, winning a record 15th consecutive match at Swansea City tonight.

The anomaly about this performance and Sunday’s virtual no-show is how Arsenal were taken apart at their ground by United in the preceding match. But this is the issue: the requisite quality is lacking for them to consistently dominate.

Both Mourinho and Eddie Howe made four changes. For United, out went Marcos Rojo, Ashley Young, Ander Herrera and Marcus Rashford and in came Luke Shaw, Phil Jones, Scott McTominay and Juan Mata. For Bournemouth, Dan Gosling, Harry Arter, Adam Smith and Callum Wilson replaced Steve Cook, Lewis Cook, Andrew Surman and Jermain Defoe. Of interest here was the 21-year-old McTominay's second ever Premier League appearance and Shaw's first appearance in the competition since suffering a foot injury on 30 April.


United's attempt to move on from Sunday's derby defeat began with Jesse Lingard mistiming a bicycle kick and Wilson failing to out-sprint Jones.

The visitors were bright, though, in what was a high-tempo beginning. Mourinho’s men had a fluid look, with Lingard once more United’s No10 and with Mata flitting around from his right-hand berth.

Wilson's pace appeared Bournemouth' best hope of turning United and he forced a first corner by leaving Jones on his backside. The centre-back atoned by making a shot-stopping block when Josh King unloaded.

The ensuing play led to a Bournemouth corner, then a prolonged passage of pressure from the visitors. This climaxed in Dan Gosling selling Shaw a dummy and firing at De Gea, who beat the ball away.

On 25 minutes United struck via Lukaku. Anthony Martial moved along the left and fed Mata. The Spaniard lifted the ball into the area and United's No9 rose highest to head past a leaden-footed Asmir Begovic. Puzzlingly there was next to nothing of a celebration from Lukaku of what was only his third strike in 15 games.

This arrived at an apt time for the home team as they had been stuttering. Yet it did not stop Bournemouth almost instantly moving up the pitch before Junior Stanislas's low effort was repelled by De Gea. When Ryan Fraser dipped in a corner from the left Lukaku made a similar hashed clearance to the one that gifted City a goal on Sunday, and this allowed Simon Fraser to take aim, but his radar was awry.

Later, Lukaku went on a run that was halted, and United were twice caught offside when in threatening positions, as the half fizzled out. Mourinho’s side went into the break with a deserved lead after producing the contest’s one moment of quality – but still owed a debt to De Gea for a sharp save from Fraser.

As against City, however, United had not lit up the match, so far. The question of the second half, then, was whether they would be able to up the entertainment. They began by being boxed in just outside their area which did not augur well.

Still, a sprightly run and cross down the right from Lukaku was encouraging, and Martial made a similar move along United’s left flank. The Frenchman next pinged a ball into Lukaku whose touch teed up Mata for a first-time effort but this was stopped. United’s problem was a lack of conviction where it matters: in front of goal. One illustration came when Lukaku teed up Martial but the No11 skied horribly from close range.

When more direct, as with Shaw’s menacing ball that split Bournemouth open, the difference was palpable. Suddenly Old Trafford came alive and life was injected into United.

After 64 minutes Mourinho took off Martial for Rashford. He will have hoped the teenager’s effervescence could yield a second goal and he was soon racing into the area though to no avail.

By the close, United had hung on – De Gea’s knees repelling a Defoe effort. But all is not well currently with Mourinho’s unit. – Guardian service