Wayne Rooney shines on subdued night for Manchester United
Louis van Gaal booed by crowd when making post-match speech
Wayne Rooney scores Manchester United’s first goal during the Premier League match against Bournemouth at Old Trafford. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
Manchester United 3 Bournemouth 1
The season that Manchester United would rather forget ended in the pain of missing out on Champions League football to Manchester City on goal difference, albeit at the final whistle the margin stood at a comfortable 16 goals.
This win confirms Louis van Gaal’s side will play in the Europa League but this is not the goal that Ed Woodward, the executive vice-chairman, demanded of his manager for the campaign. Van Gaal can partly repair his damaged reputation by beating Crystal Palace at Wembley on Saturday to claim the FA Cup, but whether this is sufficient to save his job is to be decided.
The Dutchman has to face the fact that a threadbare crowd, which followed Sunday’s postponement of this fixture due to the discovery of a dummy bomb, contained many unhappy voices, many of whom booed him as he took to the centre of the pitch at the final whistle to address them.
The banners reading: “Time to go Louis, not good enough” and “Hopefully bye bye Van Gaal” were a fair summation of a how far his stock has fallen.
At least, though, Van Gaal appeared to have come through with no injuries after he fielded the same XI that was due to start on Sunday. The sparse crowd gave the game a training ground feel. The clumsy touch from Marcus Rashford during United’s opening attack as he closed on Adam Federici’s goal added to this. And the soporific fare offered up by both sides in the first half compounded it.
So into this entertainment vacuum stepped the visiting fans, who were having a veritable ball at the expense of their opposite numbers. To the trusty standby for all away fans here of “Is this a Library?” were added, “Champions League you’re having a laugh”, and “We’ve got the Special One” in praise of Eddie Howe, the Bournemouth manager.
The telling thing here was the lack of comeback, humorous or otherwise, from the United support. Instead they were becalmed, much like the slumbering outfit Van Gaal has so often sent out.
On the field United had claimed a couple of corners and Wayne Rooney, again a playmaking midfielder, was spraying and pinging the ball around. Yet what Van Gaal would characterise as patient and scheming football designed to dismantle a side was actually the plodding fare that many of the faithful cannot fathom or stomach.
United won a 35-yard free-kick along the left, which was delivered by Rooney and defended with ease by the Cherries’ rearguard. It was the same tale when Daley Blind sent in his side’s first corner, won by Anthony Martial, and a different story during Bournemouth’s one real attack of this opening 45 minutes.
Rooney was about to show how class can often tell by starting and finishing the move that gave his side the lead. From inside the opposing half the captain stroked the ball left to Cameron Borthwick-Jackson. The left back found Martial, he engineered a one-two with Juan Mata, and when the Frenchman crossed Rashford expertly dummied the ball and there was Rooney to make it 1-0 with his 18th goal of the campaign, and a first since February 2nd.
This did finally raise a cheer from the United support and as it occurred only minutes before the break there was a positive mood at half-time. The truth, though, was that up to that point this had been the latest in a seemingly countless number of uninspired displays from United under Van Gaal.
Bournemouth began the second half by causing United problems. Rooney tracked back and broke up one attack impressively, in a moment that pleased the home crowd.
Less happy for them and their team was the penalty claim the referee, Jon Moss, turned down. When Steve Cook tried to tackle Mata he instead seemed to kick the Spaniard’s heel near the six-yard box. But Moss instantly rejected the appeals for a spot kick and play moved on.
Moments later Michael Carrick came close to doubling the lead in a rare moment of direct action from this Van Gaal team. Instead of the chess-move passing, the midfielder brought his head up 30 yards out and decided to unleash a rocket that swerved a couple of times and crashed back off Federici’s bar.
This helped raise the atmosphere as the hubbub normally heard at a high-end game now filled the stadium. But though United were coasting while they held only the single-goal lead they had to take care to protect their advantage. They did rove forward whenever possible, Mata the next player to trouble Federici with a low shot the goalkeeper saved well.
United’s second came when Rooney’s pass found Valencia and he nodded back across goal for Rashford to bang home. Young, a late replacement, added the third from another excellent Rooney pass. Bournemouth scored a consolation in stoppage time when Max Gradel’s shot was diverted from its path wide of goal and into his own net by Chris Smalling.