Manchester United recorded a 2-0 win away at Bournemouth in the Premier League on Wednesday, notwithstanding the seven selection changes made by José Mourinho in advance of Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal clash with Tottenham Hotspur. Goals from Chris Smalling and Romelu Lukaku either side of halftime sealed a comfortable victory.
United controlled possession from the off, but lacked the requisite precision in the early sparring to cause the Cherries problems. It took almost half an hour before Bournemouth keeper Asmir Begović was called into action, springing to palm a Marcus Rashford drive around the post.
Within seconds, however, United were ahead; Smalling tapping in from point-blank range after loitering in the goalmouth on the subsequent corner. That doesn’t quite do the goal justice: it all hinged on a fine slide-rule pass from Ander Herrera, which opened up space for a scampering Jesse Lingard to square across the six-yard box for the lurking Smalling.
It certainly wasn’t all one-way traffic, but Bournemouth looked flat in possession and struggled to break through their visitors’ back line. When David de Gea was tested, it was usually from distance. Former United man Josh King stung the palms with a first-time effort from the edge of the area shortly before half time, but it never looked at risk of rippling the net.
Bournemouth cranked up the pressure in the second half, and twice had tenuous penalty appeals waved away by referee Graham Scott. For their part, United sat back and waited for an opening on the counter-attack.
With 20 minutes left, it came. Paul Pogba danced his way into into the Cherries half before pulling the trigger on a pass aimed in behind the hosts’ defence. Substitute Romelu Lukaku hadn’t been on the pitch long, but was already operating at full speed, darting to his left and lobbing the onrushing Begović in the blink of an eye. Two brilliant goals, bookending an anything-but-brilliant contest.