Boss Eddie Howe felt an excellent defensive showing had paved the way for AFC Bournemouth’s deserved 1-0 victory over Manchester United today.
Joshua King grabbed the winner on the stroke of half-time at Vitality Stadium, the frontman’s superb finish ending a three-match run without a goal for the Cherries.
But while Howe’s team had not scored since Callum Wilson netted in a 2-2 draw against West Ham, the shutout against the Red Devils was the Cherries’ third clean sheet in succession.
Sponsors’ man of the match Nathan Ake and skipper Steve Cook both turned in outstanding displays as the hosts blunted a United team which had won three away games on the spin in all competitions.
Howe said: “It was a tough game and really hard fought. I was pleased with the players because we had to be spot on in both aspects of our play.
“Out of possession, we had to be very good and, in the early stages, they started really brightly and we didn’t concede. We grew into the game and performed very well for the second half of the first half. It was a great time to score and a great team goal.
“I was really pleased with the defensive performance. First and foremost, Steve Cook and Nathan Ake gave us the foundation for the win.
“Our two full-backs had their hands full with the pace of their two wingers and I thought they did really well.
“When called upon, Aaron Ramsdale made a couple of great saves at the end so, defensively, we’re moving in the right direction with the three clean sheets.
“We’ve still got work to do but the interplay around the box was much better today, much better than the two previous games. We created chances, we had some good moments so, overall, I was very pleased with the players.
“We felt we needed the win for our own confidence and impetus. It was a really key game.”
King, who had scored the winner when Cherries toppled his former club in their first season in the Premier League, repeated the feat with a superb strike.
Howe said: “The build-up was very good so, from the team’s perspective, it was very well constructed. Joshua still had a lot of work to do and the way he swivelled and hit the ball was hugely impressive.
“I think it’ll be a really nice moment for him. I can’t speak for him but I know when you play against your former clubs, it can have extra meaning.
“Joshua is the type of lad who wants to do well in every game but I’m sure that’ll be a special moment for him. It was great to see him celebrate and he’ll enjoy the win.”
Howe added: “We’re very pleased with our past three defensive performances. We have to do it on a consistent basis. Three games isn’t enough. We have to be looking after 20 to 25 games and showing a vast improvement from last season to really say we’ve turned a corner.
“It’s early steps but the signs look good and I was really impressed with the back four’s efforts today.”