MAN UTD 5, AFC BOURNEMOUTH 2
Manchester United produced a five-goal, five-star show to defeat relegation-threatened AFC Bournemouth and climb into the coveted Champions League places.
All three front players – Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood – found the net as did talisman Bruno Fernandes.
And it was the first time United had scored five goals in a home Premier League match since the 5-0 home win against Wigan Athletic in December 2011.
But for the heroics of Cherries’ goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale it would have been an even wider margin of victory.
The Reds produced some irresistible attacking play to the delight of manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.Embed from Getty Images
He said: “I am very, very happy with today, the energy in the team and the goals we scored.
That was a positive. They are all mates, working towards one common goal and keep challenging each other.
“Mason is a fantastic goalscorer and he scored at important moments for us and the second one was special.
“He is a very talented boy and we will nurture him and manage hand give him the best we can and give him more and more minutes.”
And given Greenwood is 18, Rashford 22 and Martial 24, they have age on their side.
Solskjaer added: “They have all improved this season and matured and we will continue to work with them.
“Marcus and Anthony are having their best seasons and it is Mason’s first one.”
Solskjaer added the competition is intense, conceding it is tough leaving Scott McTominay and Fred out of his starting line up.
Paul Pogba and Fernandes, injury doubts after a training ground collision, were declared fit.
This enabled Solskjaer to field the side that produced an imperious 4-0 midweek win at Brighton and a third unchanged line-up.
Relegation-threatened Bournemouth arrived on the crest of a slump having collected only one point from a possible 21 in their previous seven games. It is now one out of 24.
They made two changes from the side beaten 4-1 at home by Newcastle in midweek.
It was clear from the start the Cherries were set up to frustrate.
Fernandes, put clean through by Rashford, had United first chance in the 10th minute but his lob cleared the crossbar.
But there was a shock as the visitors stole ahead in the 15th minute after United failed to clear a cross.
Junior Stanislas cut in from the left, nutmegged Harry Maguire and found the net from tightest of angles squeezing the ball between goalkeeper David De Gea and the post, his first goal of the season.
It was also the first home goal conceded since January 22 when Jay Rodriguez found the net for Burnley.
United went close from a Rashford free kick which forced a decent diving save from Ramsdale.
And they were level just short of the half hour though Greenwood’s 14th goal of the season.
Rashford and Fernandes linked to set up Greenwood whose powerful drive was too hot to handle for Ramsdale who got a touch.
United were ahead with their second goal in five minutes, a penalty from Rashford after a handball by Adam Smith was upheld by VAR. It was his 20th goal of the season in all competition, the first player to reach this figure since Wayne Rooney in 2011-12.
And they put further daylight between the teams when Martial added a third goal in stoppage time.
The Frenchman cut in from the left and from the edge of the box bent a shot into the top corner, also his 20th of the season.
This was the first time two United players had found the net 20 times in a season since Dimitar Berbatov and Javier Hernandez in 2010-11.
Solskjaer made a change at the break as the injured Victor Lindelof was replaced by Eric Bailly while the Cherries brought on Arnaut Danjuma for David Brooks.
There was a dramatic restart as Bailly immediately conceded a penalty for handball which Joshua King scored.
The offence was committed as the ball was cleared to Lloyd Kelly who forced a fine save from De Gea while Danjuma, following up, struck the upright from a narrow angle.
The handball had been spotted and after a lengthy VAR check the penalty awarded.
The dangerous Danjuma found the net with a drive only for the effort to be rightly ruled out for offside.
Suddenly it was nervy times for United, but they were soon settled as United restored a two advantage.
Greenwood struck again with another terrific finish, this one from the right of the penalty area as he became the youngest player since Norman Whiteside in 1983 to scored 15 goals at the age of 18 years and 277 days.
And it got even better when United added a fifth goal just short of the hour, a terrific free kick into the bottom corner from the edge of the box, his sixth goal for the Red since his January move from Sporting Lisbon.
United had a sixth goal disallowed for the most marginal of offsides after Rashford slid in to convert Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s low cross.
Fred replaced Nemanja Matic midway through the half, United’s second change which was quickly followed by a third when Greenwood made way for Daniel James.
And the last two substitutions saw Odion Ighalo and Juan Mata make their entrance in place of Rashford and Martial.
United would have increased their goal tally in stoppage time but for fine saves from Ramsdale to deny Pogba, Fernandes and Fred while Ighalo also went close to pile on the misery for the Cherries.