On a damp, chilly evening in South-West Manchester, it was United’s Spanish super-stopper David de Gea who once again proved to be the main difference between the sides as he kept his 10th clean sheet in 17 Premier League games this season, denying Bournemouth an equaliser that their late pressure arguably deserved as Jose Mourinho’s Red Devils held on to grab a vital 1-0 win.
Starting with a smart save low to his left to stop Cherries’ left-back Charlie Daniels from opening the scoring after he had been allowed to run 15 yards to the edge of our penalty area, Dave continued to be the defiant ‘final hurdle’ to the visiting players.
Minutes after the Daniels save, United striker Romelu Lukaku rose majestically to meet a floated cross from the left side of the area by little Juan Mata, heading in firmly past Cherries keeper Asmir Begovic for what proved to be the only goal of this game.
Minutes later, de Gea pulled off a magnificent reaction save to prevent Ryan Fraser from finding the United net with a fierce drive towards his near-side post from an acute angle on the left side of the area, the little Scot clearly hoping to deceive the United keeper into thinking he was going to cross the ball instead.
Early in the 2nd half, after Anthony Martial squandered a simply glorious chance to double United’s advantage (somehow contriving to blast over the Stretford End crossbar from six yards out from Lukaku’s deflected pull-back, with an open goal beckoning), Marcus Rashford crashed a 20-yard right-footed howitzer off Begovic’s near post, and you just knew we were going to be made to work to secure the points….. or rather, I should say, you knew de Gea was going to be worked!
So it proved. Eddie Howe’s men sensed there was tangible reward available for their sterling efforts all evening and poured forward looking for their equaliser. They almost found it when good link-up play between Benik Afobe and Fraser saw the little Scot play a pass out for Bournemouth right-back Adam Smith to pull a great ball back for Jermain Defoe, who was lurking in the box; his fierce drive, after taking a superb first touch, was well blocked by David de Gea with his legs at the near post….. confident goalkeeping under pressure to earn his team a valuable, if somewhat workmanlike victory.
Elsewhere, Luke Shaw, making his first start in a Premier League game this season, put in another very assured display at left-back, and we can but hope the young Englishman can do enough between now and May to persuade his manager that he is worth persisting with beyond next summer. It was also encouraging to see Lukaku back on the goal-trail; hopefully, this one will boost his self-confidence at the moment, as the big Belgian has had a difficult period recently.
Ultimately this was a fairly lack-lustre display from the home team, not at all the rip-roaring response the fans were hoping to see following Sunday’s abject 2-1 Manchester Derby defeat, but the important statistic in the top-left of everyone’s TV screen showed “1-0” as referee Graham Scott blew his full-time whistle, and for now we will certainly take that and move on, particularly as major top 4 rivals Arsenal and Liverpool both dropped surprising points in drawn games, to allow us to open a 7 point gap back to 4th placed Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League table.