After winning against Partizan, Norwich City and Chelsea, supporters had every reason to believe Manchester United were once again a threatening club. Alas, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men could not solidify a fourth victory on the road and fell to AFC Bournemouth 1-0 at Vitality Stadium on Saturday. A goal from Josh King at the stroke of half-time was all the Cherries needed to send the Red Devils back to Manchester sans three points.
It was an uninspiring afternoon of play that foreshadows another disappointing, maybe trophy-less campaign. Here are three things we learned from Manchester United’s defeat against AFC Bournemouth.
Solskjaer under pressure yet again
A draw against Liverpool was acceptable, especially considering most expected United to lose. The following three wins were remarkable, the most memorable ousting Chelsea from the Carabao Cup. The good feelings lingered after each triumph, but this loss puts Solskjaer again in an unfavorable position. The Norwegian couldn’t find a solution for Bournemouth’s play and looked helpless managing his own side. Celebrated for his substitutions earlier this week, the ones he made this afternoon were rather confusing, tossing in the academy lads in hopes they could restore some order in the match.
It was near this time last year the #JoseOut campaign picked up steam, and unsurprisingly the #OleOut crusade has reemerged in the moments following this defeat. Sacking him might not be the solution, but the former United great must devise a strategy that focuses on winning without the help of penalties.
Poor defending costing United points
United splashed £50 million for Aaron Wan-Bissaka and a world record £80 million for Harry Maguire this summer, hoping to alleviate the troubles of a weak backline. Fast forward to November and opponents are still capitalizing off goals from poor defending. Josh King had more than enough time to settle a cross, produce a wonderful bit of skill to create space for a strike past David De Gea to open the scoring. It looked as if the United old boy had nowhere to settle the ball, yet the rest of United’s defense remained stationary in their position and showed zero sense of emergency to stop him from even attempting a shot.
These sort of errors, amongst others United committed Saturday, heighten the distrust of fans and excite critics. Furthermore, it begs the question if the aforementioned signings are actually worth the hefty price tag that accompanied their services. Bournemouth had all the momentum heading into the break and it followed them until the final whistle.
United continue to underperform in the second half
A strong start from United left some hopeful they would turn it around in the second half. As history has shown, however, United fall even flatter in the final 45 minutes. Daniel James showed flashes of brilliance in the first half, firing two crosses that could have been easy goals. Unfortunately, Andreas Pereira and Fred could not capitalize on either chance. Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, who seem to always work seamlessly to create chances for their side, were mostly absent from play. Apart from the scuffle Martial found himself in during the first half, the Frenchman was unusually ineffective all match.
It wasn’t until the final minutes before stoppage time that United finally showed some effort in salvaging a draw. There wasn’t enough time to make anything happen and Bournemouth had already exposed the deficiencies in United’s offense. Unlike previous matches, penalties couldn’t bail them out.