MAN UNITED 3, AFC BOURNEMOUTH 0
Marcus Rashford’s hot scoring streak continued as Manchester United strengthened their hold of fourth place in the Premier League following their home victory against AFC Bournemouth.
For the first time in his illustrious Reds’ career, Rashford found the net in three consecutive home league games.
Rashford now has 12 goals for the season, a stark contrast to last season when he scored only five.
There were also goals from Casemiro and Luke Shaw which put the Reds five points clear of Tottenham, who are fifth, as they made it four wins in a row since football returned following the mid-season break for the World Cup.
But despite their excellent attacking play, it was by no means the formality the scoreline appears.
In the second half, the Reds were indebted to goalkeeper David De Gea who made a string of superb saves as United have not conceded a home league goal for almost four months since Arsenal found the net at Old Trafford in early September.
And their importance was underlined at the final whistle when manager Erik ten Hag made for the Spaniard to give him a congratulatory embrace.Embed from Getty Images
Ten Hag said: “I’m happy with the result. Today it was not our best game. We have to be honest, we didn’t play that smart as a team.
“We ended up playing two departments, one attacking, one defending. It was like a tennis match, and we want to play football not tennis.
“We scored great goals and I think we should have scored even more but we could have conceded one or two and and I am not happy with that because David [De Gea] had to make good saves. We have to play more smart so that is the next step we have to make.
“There were big spaces at 2-0 up, sometimes we have to keep the ball and recognise when to go for goal. That is the next step. It is always good to win 3-0. It was a great performance for the crowd, with scoring opportunities for both goals. To win 3-0 is always good.
“We have to go from game-to-game. The next game is a cup one, but we want to win every game. That has to be the approach. We don’t want to look any further, focus on that, it will be a tough game.“
Ten Hag would not be drawn on United being title contenders as they moved within one point of Manchester City.
“The believe is growing which is a good signal. We are not looking too far ahead as we are only half way through the season,” he said.
Cherries’ manager Gary O’Neil said: “It wasn’t a 3-0 game. I think we had maybe six or seven chances but obviously Manchester United had some as well.
“We need to be sure that we produce that every week. I am pleased with the performance. We didn’t deserve to lose 3-0.
“We have conceded a lot of goals from set-pieces, we did a lot of work defending corners and then we concede from the very first free-kick.
“The response from 2-0 was good. [David] De Gea made some great saves and you have to score when you get into those situations.”
United made four changes from their 1-0 win at Wolves on New Year’s Eve.
There was a start for Harry Maguire, alongside Victor Lindelof in defence. They come in for Raphael Varane and Tyrell Malacia, with Luke Shaw returning to his more regular left-back slot.
Rashford was back after being dropped to the bench for the Wolves game for being late to a team meeting.
He came in for Alejandro Garnacho while Donny van de Beek, making only his second home league start in 19 months, replaced Antony. Bruno Fernandes was set to start in a more advanced role.
Bournemouth, who have the worst away record in the Premier League having conceded 39 goals including 29 on the road, made two changes from their 2-0 defeat by Crystal Palace on the same day.
Jordan Zemura and Keiffer Moore dropped out with Chris Mepham and Ryan Christie recalled.
After an uneventful opening, United took a 23rd minute lead with their first chance of the night.
Rashford was fouled on the left and from Christian Eriksen’s free kick, Casemiro stole in at the near post to volley into the roof of the net, the Brazilian’s second goal for the Reds.
De Gea pulled off a fabulous reflex save to deny Jaidon Anthony, but he had already been flagged for straying offside.
United were forced to make a change just before the break when van de Beek limped off and was replaced by Garnacho.
The Reds doubled their advantage within four minutes of the restart through Shaw following a fabulous attacking move which the left back began near his own defensive box.
Shaw surged forward and played a return pass with Rashford before Bruno Fernandes took up the mantle to feed Garnacho on the right and low cross was swept home by Shaw for his first goal of the season.
If United thought the game was all dusted, they were mistaken as the Cherries hit back with vengeance and De Gea had to pull off three excellent saves in quick succession to keep out headers from Philip Billing and Dominic Solanke and then a rasping drive by Jaidon Anthony.
Ten Hag made a triple change with 22 minutes left to freshen up his tiring side as Anthony Martial, Eriksen and Aaron Wan-Bissaka made way for Anthony Elanga, Fred and Diogo Dalot.
United came within a lick of paint from a third goal after a counterattack involving Fernades, Fred and Garnacho who cut in from the left and bent a shot which struck the far upright.
They had other chances as Dalot had a drive from distance which goalkeeper Mark Travers did well to turn over the bar.
Travers then had to be alert to turn away a shot from Garnacho and block an effort from Gernandes as a third goal continued to elude United.
It finally came with four minutes left when Rashford struck.
Shaw’s long punt forward found Fernandes who cushioned a first-time pass across the face of goal for Rashford to have a simple tap in from four yards.
There was a huge cheer with three minutes left when World Cup winner Lisandro Martinez replaced Lindelof for his first appearance since helping Argentina to victory.
The Cherries, in fairness, kept battling to the end and in stoppage time had two great chances to get on to the scoresheet.
De Gea pulled off another super stop to turn away Anthony’s drive and then substitute Siriki Dembele’s cross looped over De Gea and struck the crossbar.