Paul Pogba strikes again as Man United’s hot streak rolls on
Bournemouth win makes it three from three for Solskjaer but Eric Bailly sees red late on
Manchester United’s Paul Pogba celebrates as he scores his team’s second goal during the win over Bournemouth at Old Trafford. Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images
Manchester United 4 AFC Bournemouth 1
Towards the end Old Trafford was the loudest in recent memory, Manchester United’s joyous fans singing the “20 times” ditty about their record number of titles.
This recognised the manner of this 4-1 hammering of Bournemouth and the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer honeymoon that continues with a third emphatic win of the caretaker manager’s three games in charge.
There is now a definite strut and swagger to United and not even Eric Bailly’s late straight red card dented the mood of happiness in this stadium thanks to a performance decorated by the magnificent Paul Pogba and an impressive supporting cast led by Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford.
For this last outing of 2018 Solskjaer made four changes. Ashley Young, Eric Bailly, Ander Herrera and Anthony Martial were in, Diogo Dalot, Phil Jones, Fred and Juan Mata out.
Eddie Howe’s tinkering ran to three: Diego Rico, Jordan Ibe and Joshua King replaced Simon Francis, Jefferson Lerma and Ryan Fraser.
In retaining Rashford and placing Romelu Lukaku on the bench the interim manager offered a clue of how Solskjaer would prefer United to attack: with the greater nimbleness the No 10 can offer over the No 9.
Within three minutes Rashford started to prove the theory. After drifting to the right he removed Nathan Aké with some Fred Astaire-footwork, punched the ball in, and there was Pogba ghosting to the far post to finish and make it three strikes in two games.
This was the perfect start from a perfect move straight from the Busby-Ferguson playbook: fast, direct and ending with a killer touch. Moments later Solskjaer’s men authored a near-repeat. This time possession was pin-balled along the left as Martial, Herrera and Jesse Lingard swapped passes before the latter hit a swirling cross in. There, again, was Pogba, at the end of a schemer’s run-and-leap that asked a question of Asmir Begovic the visiting goalkeeper just about answered.
What was on view so far was a buccaneering spirit that, frankly, has been missing since Ferguson retired in May 2013. Required, though, from this were more goals. Bournemouth had hardly attacked but remained the sole finish behind. Perhaps to iterate the point Solskjaer, Mike Phelan, Michael Carrick and Kieran McKenna chatted with Rashford and Pogba during a break in the action on 20 minutes What the Norwegian and his assistants offered would not have included allowing Aké to unload a free header that ricocheted off Herrera and David De Gea in a scare a little later.
Pogba, though, roved everywhere and when Martial sand-wedged in the ball there was the No 6 again to test Begovic. This followed a 25-yard Pogba shot moments before that the keeper was grateful came straight at him.
On 33 minutes there was nothing Begovic could do to deny the rampant Frenchman. Here was another symphonic sequence as Ashley Young pulled the ball back to Herrera, he pinged in the cross, and Pogba was present to smash home a header that was followed by his current celebration: miming twirling a lasso.
By the break it was 3-1 and Solskjaer, again, had injected the entertainment-factor back into United.
Rashford’s second in three matches may have derived from Martial’s chipped pass from the right but in added time the Cherries had succour: defensive sloppiness allowed a David Brooks cross and this time Aké did beat De Gea.
This had a stern-faced Solskjaer striding off for the half-time talk and Howe having a glimmer of hope to work with for his.
The second 45 minutes began with Bailly needing to clear and Luke Shaw heading weakly as Bournemouth threatened. Now, though, came some one-touch at the other end. Shaw claimed a tackle, Pogba found Martial, he found Herrera, and the Spaniard forced a corner.
Next on show was impressive pressing as Lingard hassled Charlie Daniels and Rashford, following up, won a throw-in. This preceded a long passage of keep ball from the home side in which United relayed it from back to front with ease.
When they next decided to pounce Bournemouth lived dangerously. Pogba slipped Rashford in and his mini-lob was repelled by the ever-busy Begovic.
After Howe swapped Lys Mousset and Ryan Fraser for Brooks and Wilson off came the effervescent Rashford for Lukaku. Solskjaer’s substitution was inspired: the Belgian appeared offside but will not care after beating Begovic with a neat right-footed strike.
Pogba then came close to the first hat-trick of his United career: his shot was turned on to the post by Begovic.
United, as Solskjaer maintains, are a work in progress. But the travail is now tinged with a new-found energy and belief. – Guardian service