by Dan Davis (@dan_davis20)
Romelu Lukaku’s first half header was enough to beat AFC Bournemouth 1-0, despite the Cherries creating the majority of chances.
It was Eddie Howe’s side who deserved to leave Old Trafford with at least a point, after early missed chances from Josh King and Charlie Daniels. David de Gea was forced into several impressive stops to deny Bournemouth, and the Cherries were unlucky to fall to defeat.
Howe made four changes from the draw at Crystal Palace on Saturday, with Dan Gosling, Adam Smith, Harry Arter and Callum Wilson all being recalled to the starting line-up. The surprising absentee was Jermain Defoe, who dropped to the bench despite his two-goal haul at Selhurst Park and potential goal of the season contender.
It was the home side who started the brightest, as Juan Mata’s cross in the fifth minute saw Jesse Lingard attempt an acrobatic volley, but fail to make any contact with the ball. The Cherries then tried to create their first opening when Callum Wilson span Phil Jones, but his delivery into the penalty area drifted behind for a goal kick.
At a wet and windy Old Trafford, the away side were forced to be patient. Josh King cleverly turned Scott McTominay and tried to play through Wilson, but Nemanja Matic read the danger well to intercept. Junior Stanislas then whipped in a dangerous ball to the front post that well headed away by Phil Jones, with King waiting to pounce behind him.
The Cherries grew in confidence as the half went on, and in the 20th minute King broke in behind the home side’s defence before seeing his shot well blocked by a sliding Jones. United then failed to clear their lines, and Charlie Daniels was allowed to surge forward before driving in a left-footed effort that David de Gea had to save smartly down low.
The Spaniard was tested again a couple of minutes later when Ryan Fraser’s ball into the box was over hit, before Gosling stepped across Luke Shaw and saw his powerful effort punched clear.
Just as Howe’s side looked to be in the ascendency, it was United who took the lead firmly against the run of play. Juan Mata delivered from the left-hand side, and Romelu Lukaku climbed above Ake and Daniels to head home emphatically.
The Belgian’s goal was United’s first effort on target, and the breakthrough seemed to spark Mourinho’s men into life. Just moments later, Jones picked out Luke Shaw’s run out wide, and the full-back played in a low ball across the area that Simon Francis stabbed narrowly wide of his own goal.
However, the Cherries could have equalised after the corner was cleared. Junior Stanislas drove forward towards the penalty area, before jinking outside and driving an effort towards goal that de Gea had to beat away.
Howe’s men posed a real danger to a nervous United defence, and Simon Francis should have scored in the 33rd minute, but hooked well over from ten yards out when a corner wasn’t dealt with.
Lukaku almost found the back of the net for the second time just before the interval, when Valencia’s driven cross landed at his feet before the Cherries cleared well. The Belgian then found himself in the referee’s notebook, after two mistimed tackles on Harry Arter saw him shown a yellow card by Graham Scott.
Howe’s side looked for an equaliser in the closing stages of the first half, and almost found it in stoppage time. Ryan Fraser held off Valencia on the right-hand side of the penalty area, before drilling in a cross that looked set to find the far corner of David de Gea’s goal before the Spaniard intervened well. The half-time whistle was blown, and Bournemouth were unfortunate not to be leading.
The away side started off the second half well, with Fraser and King combining well outside the area before Jones stepped in.
In the 49th minute, Lukaku drove down the wing before crossing low towards the near post that was well held by Begovic. Anthony Martial was then played down the line, and the Frenchman drove into the box before being well marshalled out for a goal kick.
Harry Arter then blocked Juan Mata’s shot, after Lukaku’s clever flick-on from Martial’s in swinging delivery.
The Cherries looked to break away once again, as Ryan Fraser drove at the United penalty area before firing an effort into de Gea’s chest from 25 yards out. Begovic was the next to be tested, when McTominay’s delivery looked set to drop to Martial before the Bosnian claimed well from under the crossbar.
On the hour mark, United should have made their pressure count. Callum Wilson headed back towards his own goal which Lukaku was quick to pounce on. Begovic saved superbly after narrowing the angle, before Martial inexplicably fired over the crossbar from a few yards out as Gosling looked to intercept.
Soon after the Frenchman’s miss, Marcus Rashford was brought on to replace him by Jose Mourinho. Eddie Howe also made his first rolls of the dice, with Jermain Defoe and Benik Afobe replacing Junior Stanislas and Josh King.
Minutes after coming on, Rashford let loose a stunning effort. From 30 yards out, the youngster saw his shot cannon off the underside of the crossbar, before bouncing narrowly in front of the line and away.
Howe’s substitution also nearly paid off, as Jermain Defoe spun well outside the area but could only fire straight at de Gea.
The Cherries continued to look for an equaliser in the final ten minutes. Simon Francis did well to retain possession and move to the edge of the penalty area, where he dinked in a cross that Nathan Ake headed over the crossbar. A minute later, Jermain Defoe was well released into the box by King, and the striker shrugged off Jones before forcing de Gea into a save at his near post.
The home side were hanging on in the closing stages, and the Cherries came close to capitalising. Francis played in a teasing delivery to the back post, where Defoe and Afobe both challenged for the ball, leaving de Gea with a simple catch.
Juan Mata led a breakaway for United in the 93rd minute, but his drilled cross couldn’t find its way to Lukaku on the penalty spot. The Cherries came forward for one last attack, and won a dangerous free kick just outside the area after Matic’s handball. The set-piece was worked to Fraser, who launched an effort that was well fielded by de Gea.
The referee blew for full-time, and Bournemouth were extremely unlucky to leave a downtrodden Old Trafford empty-handed.
MAN OF THE MATCH: David de Gea
Manchester United: de Gea, Valencia, Smalling, Jones, Shaw, McTominay, Matic, Mata, Lingard, Martial, Lukaku
Subs: Romero, Lindelof, Blind, Young, Herrera, Rashford, Ibrahimovic
Bournemouth: Begovic, Smith, Francis, Ake, Daniels, Fraser, Arter, Gosling, Stanislas, King, Wilson
REFEREE: Graham Scott