Manchester United travelled to the Vitality Stadium looking to bounce back from a shock defeat at home to West Bromwich Albion at the weekend.
Jose Mourinho made it clear that places for the FA Cup semi-final were up for grabs and he needed an appropriate response. Bournemouth have had another stellar season under Eddie Howe and headed into the game looking to finish the season strong in hope of getting a top half finish.
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AFC Bournemouth – 4411 – Begovic, Francis, Cook, Ake, Daniels, Ibe (Mousset 56’), Cook, Surman (Gosling 75’), Fraser, King (Defoe 82’), Wilson
Manchester United – 433 – De Gea, Darmian, Smalling, Jones, Shaw, Fellaini, Herrera (Matic 72’), Pogba (Blind 80’), Lingard (Lukaku 62’), Rashford, Martial
Bournemouth started the match on the front foot, immense and intense all across the pitch. Playing direct through Daniels and Fraser up to both Wilson and King, they put Manchester United under great pressure in the opening 20 minutes. Quick and decisive defending kept the ball with Bournemouth, who looked in total control. Manchester United managed to win a corner after Begovic parried a Rashford strike. Lingard took it and passed quickly to Herrera at the top of the box, who neatly played Lingard back in to provide an easy tap in for the poaching Smalling. Totally against the run of play but Manchester United had the lead after a well worked goal.
With a goal advantage, Manchester United began to find their rhythm and got back control of possession. Bournemouth found themselves sitting deeper and looking to break with their speed up top. However, the partnership of Jones and Smalling were crucial in breaking up play and clearing the danger. The intensity from the opening 20 minutes died down leading to half time, but not without a big chance from King. Ake brilliantly found him on the right edge of the box and a strong strike was punched away from De Gea.
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Bournemouth will have been kicking themselves after their missed opportunities but still found themselves in the game. They came out with the same intensity they had in the first part of the opening 45 but again, struggled to make it count. Wilson got the best opportunity of the game for Bournemouth after a wonderful King cross found him goal side of Shaw just six yards away. A pull from Shaw put Wilson off balance and he couldn’t make the necessary connection. Referee Graham Scott waved away any appeals but Wilson and Bournemouth will rightly feel hard done by.
Manchester United, after their close call, once again grew into the half and started to dictate play. Their comfort on the ball and organisation in defence kept Bournemouth form getting anything other than a half chance here or there. Given a cameo, Lukaku sealed the points for Manchester United after a deft first time finish from an incisive Pogba through ball. Quick movement up the field found the Manchester United men in acres of space and they made it count. Bournemouth looked out of ideas as the match closed out and the late inclusion of Defoe was to no avail. Manchester United comfortably saw the game out, ensuring three points as they looked forward to their trip to Wembley. Bournemouth will be looking ahead to their next meeting with Southampton, to mathematically secure their place in the Premier League next season.
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MOTM: Both Bournemouth and Manchester United had strong performances across the pitch but there was one man who made the difference. Despite not having the armband, Chris Smalling was stellar at the back and led Manchester United to their league leading 17th clean sheet of the season. Furthermore, he opened the scoring with great awareness giving him a simple finish.
Written by Ammar Nazarali.
22. Currently living in the great state of Texas. Manchester United Team Correspondent for 90MAAT. #ILoveThisGame (@FPLAmmar)