Manchester United conceded their 18th Premier League goal of the season, falling behind early to Bournemouth, before a first half equalizer from Anthony Martial and a dramatic 92nd minute winner from Marcus Rashford won the barely deserving Reds all 3 points.
José Mourinho named an almost unchanged lineup from the side that performed so well last weekend against Everton, with one notable exception. Alexis Sánchez returned from an injury layoff to replace the misfiring Marcus Rashford in the starting XI. The similarly goalshy Romelu Lukaku wasn’t even in the traveling squad, officially because of a minor injury, but perhaps for some much needed rest.
While the lack of goals from United’s strikers have gotten a lot of attention lately, the Reds’ defending has been consistently substandard all season. It took less than 4 minutes for the first individual error: a mistimed tackle from Chris Smalling left Ryan Fraser clean through on goal, and David de Gea was called into action early to keep the scores level.
It was a sign of things to come. Only a minute after another sharp De Gea save, Bournemouth beat United’s offside trap and squared a ball to the team’s top scorer Callum Wilson. Wilson got himself between Smalling and Ashley Young to steer the ball home and put the Cherries ahead.
United offered little in response. Bournemouth were controlling the pace and flow of the match, while the visitors seemed to let the game pass them by. United’s brittleness at the back was well matched by their cluelessness in attack. When the Reds drew level in the 36th minute, it was very much against the run of play.
Alexis Sánchez had offered little in his role at the head of the attack, but it was the Chilean who won the ball back in midfield before combining with Young and playing a ball across the middle. United’s player of the moment, Anthony Martial, arrived at the perfect time and made no mistake with the finish.
Mourinho’s side had been outplayed for large parts of the first half, but entered the break with the scores level.
The second half started much the same as the first. Not for the first time, Fraser beat Young down United’s right had side, and only an excellent reflex save from De Gea kept the hosts from going ahead again. In this half though, United at least didn’t take as long to respond. Martial combined with Luke Shaw down the left to send the full-back through on goal, but Asmir Begović kept out Shaw’s shot.
With less than 10 minutes gone in the second half, Mourinho made his first changes. Marcus Rashford and Ander Herrera came on in place of Mata and Fred, respectively.
United came agonizingly close to taking the lead in the 65th minute. Young was fouled in a dangerous area, and took the ensuing free kick himself. His curling effort ricocheted off the crossbar, and both Rashford and Paul Pogba had follow up efforts cleared by defenders. United were growing into the game after the substitutions, and twice in the space of a few minutes Pogba set up Herrera for strikes that both sailed just wide.
Mourinho’s final adjustment came in the form of the fit again Jesse Lingard, who replaced the largely ineffective Sánchez in the 79th minute. Both teams had their opportunities to take all three points, but it looked like this one was headed for yet another disappointing draw.
Marcus Rashford had other ideas. Pogba — as is his wont — had been growing in influence in the second half. The midfielder dribbled down the left wing in the 92nd minute and lofted a ball into Rashford in the middle of the box. The no. 10, having just turned 21 this week, took an extra touch before poking the ball into the net and winning it at the death for United.