Cherries battle hard in United defeat
- Graham Scott
Goals in either half from Chris Smalling and Romelu Lukaku secure a 2-0 win for Manchester United over AFC Bournemouth.
The visitors took a lead just past the midway point of the first half, Chris Smalling finishing off a well-worked move from Ander Herrera and Jesse Lingard after a corner.
The Cherries had a very strong call for a penalty denied after the interval, and despite their increased attacking endeavours conceded for a second time when Romelu Lukaku raced onto a through ball and finished clinically.
The home side continued to push until the final whistle, often getting into promising positions in attacking areas, but they were ultimately unable to penetrate the United backline and forge a path to a recovery.
There were two changes from the weekend with Callum Wilson and Andrew Surman into the line-up in place of Jermain Defoe and Dan Gosling, the start being Surman's first in the Premier League in 2018. For their part, United made seven changes to their line-up with the prospect of an FA Cup semi-final tie against Tottenham on Saturday.
Amid a noisy opening atmosphere at Vitality Stadium, a teed-up freekick for Simon Francis was blocked while Steve Cook needed to make a fine challenge to stop Anthony Martial's hazardous run into the area at the other end.
Jordon Ibe slipped a ball through for Wilson and the striker was in a footrace with Phil Jones, though the last touch came off the Cherries man as the two players tussled for the ball.
It was roles reversed moments later when Wilson found space and pulled back for Ibe on the edge of the area, the shot came in low but skidded two yards wide of David de Gea's upright.
The first 15 minutes saw the ball quickly move to and fro, with Asmir Begovic pleased to see Herrera's well-struck effort from range deflect kindly up and into his grasp following a corner.
The United pressure was growing, but after a rapid break Ryan Fraser stole into the box and a visiting defender needed to be alert to deflect the Scot's shot into the side netting.
Marcus Rashford broke free of Nathan Ake on the right wing, flashed into the home area with his dribble and forced Begovic into a good palming save, the search for the opener heating up.
The game's first goal then came for the away side within a minute, Smalling the scorer.
Herrera on the apex of the box found Lingard's haring run to the byline, threading his pass through, the England international was able to feed the ball across the six-yard area where defender Smalling was on hand to convert.
Time ticking down on the first period, Surman instigated a break which saw Wilson and Joshua King link up well to move the play to the left, only for the final ball back across from the touchline to be errant, allowing Paul Pogba to come away with the possession.
A buccaneering Ake forward drive allowed the ball to break to King 25 yards from the target. The Norwegian struck in an early effort with De Gea standing up to repel the powered effort, the Cherries heading into the interval facing a one-goal deficit.
With no changes made by either side at the interval, the Cherries set about looking for a route to level the encounter, Wilson racing onto a ball to win his side a corner that Marouane Fellaini was able to head clear.
Untied were continuing to show pace and sprightliness in attack, the home backline needing to be on high alert at all times with Martial and Rashford always ready to run in behind.
The golden chance the home fans craved looked to have come when Fraser and King linked to move the ball into the attacking third, King's centre was near perfect for a tumbling Wilson, five yards from goal, but referee Graham Scott saw nothing wrong with Luke Shaw's grappling challenge from behind on the Cherries front man.
The home intensity raised and the Bournemouth fans loudly backing their side, Wilson wriggled free on the left with his centre cleared, and the same player was soon stealing in on goal and past Jones, but from a tight angle the United defender recovered to concede a corner.
From the set piece the ball was flicked down and invitingly for King, but with men in front of him the striker was agonisingly unable to get a clean strike away.
The slightest of touches by substitute Lys Mousset on Pogba was deemed a foul, right on the line of the penalty area. Lukaku, another replacement, took, but his effort cannoned back off the defensive wall.
Rashford fired an effort in that Begovic held onto, before Lukaku added his side's second.
Pogba moved into space on half way and with the Cherries defence stretched he played through a pinpoint ball that Lukaku seized upon and finished over the advancing Begovic.
Mousset sent an angled drive over the bar, the hosts continuing to look for a way back into the contest inside the final ten minutes, Defoe soon coming on in place of King.
Matteo Darmian desperately headed a Cherries cross just wide of his own goal, and from the corner Dan Gosling, on from the bench, swerved a shot a yard wide of the target.
A late flurry of home corners preceded four minutes of time signalled to be added on, Bournemouth not giving up on registering with the scorekeepers right to the final whistle.
However, as the referee's final whistle blew the Cherries' tough week came to an end with battling performance but no points to show for it.