MAN UNITED 4, AFC BOURNEMOUTH 1
Manchester United, and especially Paul Pogba, are once again playing with smiles on their faces.
The Reds made it three successive wins under interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer following their emphatic victory against AFC Bournemouth at Old Trafford.
Solskjaer, who joined Sir Matt Busby and Jose Mourinho as the only managers to win their first three games, has transformed the club with his refreshing enthusiasm, a stark contrast to the moody Mourinho.
In the three games with Solskjaer at the helm, United have collected nine points, scored 12 goals and conceded three but, moreover, played with an enjoyment not seen under much of the previous manager’s watch.
Much sterner challenges lie ahead, but Solskjaer’s has made the perfect start.
Pogba scored twice – that’s four in the last two games as he looks a player reborn – while Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku also found the net.
The only blemishes were the goal conceded and Eric Bailly’s late sending off that will rule him out of the next three matches.Embed from Getty Images
Looking at the bigger picture, though, United are playing with a swagger and the same players look a different team under Solskjaer.
He said: “We created great chances and we played fantastic attacking football at times.
“The fans want to see it, we want to see it and the players are enjoying it.”
Apart from the goals, Solskjaer was delighted with the way his side managed the game in the second half.
There was praise from Solskjaer for Rashford and Pogba as he continued: “Marcus Rashford has been different class since I came. His work rate is unbelievable and that is the catalyst as we should not be outworked by any team.
“He chases, closes down, runs in behind and his skill for Paul’s goal was great. He’s got all the chances in the world and the potential to be a top striker.
“Paul gave a top, top performance from a midfield player. It was his all-round work rate, shots, headers, tackles and no showboating.”
Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe described it a “tough day and disappointing display” saying his side didn’t deal with the threats of United who played with freedom.
Solskjaer made four changes from the side that beat Huddersfield Town on Boxing Day.
Anthony Martial returned after illness while there were recalls for Bailly, Ashley Young and Ander Herrera.
The players losing out were Diogo Dalot, Phil Jones, Fred and Juan Mata.
United, who also had Lukaku on the bench following his return from compassionate leave, made the perfect start with Pogba making the breakthrough after four minutes.
The goal owed much to the brilliance of Rashford who cut in from right with a slalom-like run before crossing for Pogba to score as he slid in to convert from four yards, his eighth goal of the season and third in the last two games.
It was the second time in three games they had scored in the first five minutes since Solskjaer made taken charge while Jose Mourinho managed it only twice in 24 games.
Rashford also had a goalbound shot deflected by Nathan Ake for a corner as United continued their much-improved form under Solskjaer.
United had a let off when Ake’s header from David Brooks’ corner was blocked from almost on the goalline by Herrera.
The Reds doubled their lead in the 33rd minute as Pogba struck again.
Young made the initial break down the right and Herrera cross for Pobga to beat keeper Asmir Begovic to the ball as he headed home from six yards.
It was his ninth goal of the season to draw level with top scorer Martial while Pogba also became the first player since Wayne Rooney in 2012 to score twice in successive games.
United added a third on the stroke of half time when Rashford slid in at the far post to convert a cross from Martial.
But the inability to keep a clean sheet struck again as the Cherries scored in stoppage time, Ake heading into the roof of the net from six yards following Brooks’ cross.
After a quiet start to the second period, United had a great chance mid-half to add a fourth goal when Rashford was put clean through by Luke Shaw only for Begovic to sprint from his line to block.
United made their first change with 20 minutes left when the tireless-working Rashford was replaced by Lukaku.
Lukaku had been on the pitch less than two minutes when he found the net after being released by Pogba as he fired home from 10 yards. Replays showed the Belgium was marginally offside.
Pogba, quoted 40-1 pre-match to score a hat trick almost completed his treble when a drive struck the base of the upright.
United made a second change when Herrera made way for Andreas Pereira.
United were reduce to 10 men after Bailly was sent off for sliding in to challenge substitute Ryan Fraser.
That forced Solskjaer to change his third change as Marouane Fellaini, who was waiting on the touchline, sat down as Martial made way for centre-back Jones to slot into Bailly’s place.
It was a case of managing the last 11 minutes and four of added time, something United did comfortably as Solskjaer’s honeymoon continued.