by Dan Davis (@dan_davis20)
Bournemouth fell to a 2-0 defeat against Manchester United after goals from Chris Smalling and Romelu Lukaku earned the visitors victory at Vitality Stadium.
Smalling’s opener after 28 minutes was the result of a slick passing move from Jose Mourinho’s side, before Lukaku’s clever lob midway through the second half condemned the Cherries to consecutive Premier League losses.
Boss Eddie Howe made two changes after the 3-0 defeat at Liverpool this weekend. Andrew Surman was restored to the starting line-up for the first time since December, with Josh King also featuring from the off. Jermain Defoe and Dan Gosling were instead named among the substitutes, after starting at Anfield on Saturday.
Manchester United boasted seven changes after their recent shock defeat against West Bromwich Albion. Only Paul Pogba, David de Gea, Ander Herrera and Smalling retained their places from Saturday, with Phil Jones, Jesse Lingard, Luke Shaw, Marouane Fellaini and Matteo Darmian all coming in. Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, both rumoured to be exiting Old Trafford, also started.
Following a patient start from both sides, it was the Cherries who created the first real opportunity of the game. After just three minutes, King’s run towards the penalty area was halted by Herrera and referee Graham Scott awarded a free-kick. With both Ryan Fraser and Charlie Daniels poised to strike, the ball was instead played short to Cherries captain Simon Francis, whose strike was blocked by the visitors’ wall.
After ten minutes, Callum Wilson looked to have raced clear of Jones but the United centre-half muscled the Cherries hitman off the ball. But moments later, Wilson was involved in another positive moment for the home side. The ex-Coventry striker teed up Jordon Ibe, who drove an effort narrowly wide of United skipper de Gea’s far post.
The visitors carved out their first opening after 15 minutes. A corner whipped in by Rashford picked out Jones, who guided the ball to Herrera. The Spaniard’s venomous strike took a deflection from close range, and Asmir Begovic comfortably collected.
The Cherries continued to pose a danger on the offensive, and Charlie Daniels released Ryan Fraser towards the penalty area. The Scottish international drove towards goal, but after a slight touch off Darmian, the effort skimmed into the side netting. Daniels were next to chance his arm, but the full back’s strike was smothered by Jones’ outstretched leg.
It wasn’t until just before the half-hour mark that the first real chance of the game was fashioned. Nathan Ake looked to skip past Rashford on the touchline, but the United attacker appeared to foul the Dutchman in winning back possession for the visitors. The referee, despite the shouts from the home crowd, waved for play to continue and Rashford advanced on goal before testing Begovic with a low drive.
The resultant corner saw United edge into the lead. The set piece was worked to Herrera, who slotted a well-weighted pass to Jesse Lingard, who had burst behind the Cherries backline. The latter then drove in a low delivery across the face of goal, and Smalling peeled away from his marker to stab home from close range – his third consecutive Premier League away goal.
The Cherries struggled to respond after the setback, but managed to muster a resurgence in the closing stages of the half. Wilson surged into the visitors’ half, and played through King down the left hand side. The Norwegian raced towards the penalty area, but couldn’t pick out a team-mate with his cross.
Dutchman Ake’s storming run into the United half was then halted, but the referee played a clever advantage for the Cherries. The ball was worked to King 20 yards from goal, and the striker’s effort was driven at de Gea, the Spaniard managing to beat away in the final opening before the interval.
After the break, United emerged the stronger side. The visitors pieced together several passes on the edge of the Cherries’ penalty area, before a mis-timed flick from Pogba allowed the home side to regroup. Martial then picked up possession on the edge of the box, but his delivery sailed over the head of every waiting United player. The Frenchman was then presented with another opening just a minute later, but his strike was blocked by Steve Cook before the Cherries cleared.
But between the United forays, the home side created a guilt-edged chance on 56 minutes. Fraser picked out King on the far side of the penalty area, who whipped a cross towards the far post. As Wilson looked set to stab home at the back post for the equaliser, however, he appeared to be impeded by Shaw, although Graham Scott waved the appeals away.
Mourinho made his first change on 63 minutes, replacing Lingard with Lukaku, but it was the Cherries who continued to press for a leveller. Lewis Cook danced away from his marker and released Wilson, who was denied the opportunity to strike by a sliding Jones.
Lukaku then blasted a controversially-awarded free kick into the Cherries’ wall soon after, but wasn’t to be denied a place on the scoresheet. Into the final quarter of the game, Pogba spearheaded a rapid United counterattack that culminated in the Frenchman playing through Lukaku into the box. The Belgian striker held off the attentions of Ake, and delicately lobbed the onrushing Begovic for United’s second, killer goal.
Substitute Lys Mousset blazed a strike over the crossbar with ten minutes remaining, before Dan Gosling also miscued his effort in the Cherries’ final chance of the game.
The defeat means the Cherries remain in 11th place, three points from the top half of the Premier League with safety in the top flight already all but secured.
Bournemouth: Begovic, Francis, S. Cook, Ake, Daniels, Fraser, Surman, L. Cook, Ibe, King, Wilson
Substitutes: Boruc, Gosling, Pugh, Arter, Defoe, Mousset, Simpson
Manchester United: de Gea, Darmian, Smalling, Jones, Shaw, Herrera, Pogba, Fellaini, Lingard, Rashford, Martial
Substitutes: Pereira, Bailly, Young, Matic, Blind, Sanchez, Lukaku
Referee: Graham Scott