Manchester United extended their Premier League winning run as they overcame Bournemouth 3-0 at Old Trafford.
A 23rd-minute volley from Casemiro, a brilliant Luke Shaw-inspired second and a late Marcus Rashford goal was enough to see out the victory for Erik ten Hag’s side, who controlled proceedings, but weren’t entirely comfortable as the visitors came out with a more adventurous mentality than many initially thought.
The Red Devils had the better of the possession throughout the early exchanges, and they finally found their breakthrough as Christian Eriksen’s inswinging free kick found Casemiro unmarked at the near post, with the Brazilian converting superbly to steer United in front.
Bournemouth refused to lie down from the blow, getting up from the canvas and seeking to hit the hosts in transition with direct balls behind centre-back and full-back for Messrs Jaidon Anthony, Phillip Billing, and Ryan Christie to chase in the channels.
But with the second half only four minutes old, it was left-back Shaw – back in his natural position – who doubled the home side’s tally with a brilliantly-taken finish.
Darting forwards in typical fashion from his full-back berth, the England international showed great awareness to find Fernandes inhabiting his favourite central pocket, with the Portuguese spreading it wider for substitute Alejandro Garnacho.
The teenage Argentine’s first-time cut-back found the onrushing Shaw, who swept home with his swinger to send his supporters into a sea of celebration.
Anthony Martial could have extended the home side’s lead even further as he glanced over a delicious Casemiro cross on 55 minutes, escaping the attentions of Chris Mepham and Marcos Senesi.
Phillip Billing and Jaidon Anthony both went close for the Cherries as they refused to go away, both forcing David de Gea into quick-fire yet routine saves to preserve United’s two-goal buffer.
Gary O’Neil’s away side continued to be plucky opponents for Ten Hag’s men, but United showed a renewed sense of professionalism and composure as they settled into a rhythm to begin seeing the game out.
The Dutch manager was able to begin rotating his squad with 20 minutes to play, giving minutes to the returning Diogo Dalot most notably, with the Portuguese right-back back to full fitness at a crucial time for United.
Garnacho clipped the outside of the far post with a curling effort with 12 to play as United pressed for a third.
That third came with four to play, as a delightful Shaw cross-field pass found Bruno Fernandes, and the Portuguese playmaker’s cushioned pass was perfectly into the path of Rashford, who slotted home for a deserved third.
It’s a job well done at the Theatre for Manchester United, with their Dutch director ensuring all those on the Premier League’s biggest stage provided a polished performance.
Left-back, centre-back… what can’t he do? Luke Shaw showed his quality yet again for United with a wonderful display back in his favoured position.
After filling in brilliantly on the left of United’s central defensive pairing alongside Rapahel Varane, many amongst the fan base were thinking that Shaw could well prove an able deputy to the absent Lisandro Martinez in the middle, hence rendering captain Harry Maguire surplus to requirements at Old Trafford.
Shaw was indeed excellent today, but it’s also worth mentioning Maguire and Lindelof, both given a chance by ten Hag, who decided to rest Varane and the recently-returned Martinez, with the Manchester derby on the horizon.
Both central defenders were composed in possession, assured in the challenge, and seemed happy to be back on the pitch.
But will either be able to stake a claim for a return to regular football? That’s where the big question lies.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH
Luke Shaw (Manchester United). A complete performance. He’s rivalled closely by Casemiro, but his exceptional goal – started and finished by himself – sees Shaw pip the Brazilian battler to this one.
Ryan Christie is often a thorn in the side for most defenders, but Shaw made easy work of marshalling him, on top of providing a major outlet out wide for the hosts, especially with Rashford and Fernandes both keen to inhabit the half-space inside.
As such, Shaw was afforded the space to do what he does best; maraud forward on the overlap either as a decoy or a credible creative output, and he did so this evening, to devastating effect.
Manchester United: de Gea 7, W-Bissaka 7, Lindelof 6, Maguire 6, Shaw 8, Casemiro 8, Eriksen 7, van de Beek 6, Fernandes 6, Rashford 6, Martial 6. Subs: Garnacho 7, Fred 6, Dalot 7, Elanga 6, Martinez 6.
Bournemouth: Travers 7, Anthony 6, Mepham 6, Senesi 6, Kelly 6, Smith 6, Christie 6, Lerma 6, Cook 6, Billing 6, Solanke 5. Subs: Stacey 6, Dembele 6, Moore 6, Rothwell 6.
23′: GOAL! United have the lead, and it’s Casemiro with it! Rashford wins the initial free kick on the left off Smith, and the Christian Eriksen delivery is converted brilliantly on the volley by the unmarked Brazilian at the near post.
49′: GOAL! It’s two, and it’s Luke Shaw for Manchester United! It’s a fantastically worked goal, started and finished by Shaw, who drove forward, breaking the Bournemouth line from left-back, spreading it wide right to Garnacho via Fernandes, and Shaw slides home for two.
55′: CLOSE! An outstanding ball from Casemiro from the right half-space in towards Martial… and he glances over! What a chance!
78′: OFF THE WOODWORK! United so close to a third as Garnacho tricks inside and bends one, and he clips the outside of the far post!
86′: GOAL! There’s three, and it’s Marcus Rashford, who finally gets in on the act! An initial Fernandes corner is dealt with comfortably, but in the second phase, a delicious Shaw cross-field pass finds the Portuguese, whose cushioned pass is perfectly into the path of Rashford.