Written by Neil Dawson
‘I think that weather suited Bournemouth today’ said a cockney wearing that diarrhoea brown Utd away kit on the way out of the ground. ‘If you’d been to Manchester mate you’d know it is prone to the odd drizzly day’ was my reply…..which was met with a load of London abuse… It’s moments like this that make beating Manchester Utd even better than other wins……
And beat Manchester United we did……. it wasn’t pretty…. but it was finally the 90 minutes ‘everybody on it’ performance we have been waiting for. Eddie made one change from last week – Harry’s lively cameo brought him back into the side in place of Danjuma and Howe was rewarded with the loanee’s best performance to date. The game was played in some biblical weather patterns but the red sea of the Bournemouth defence was never parted. All four defenders were absolutely outstanding against a United attack that has struggled for goals this year but had Martial back to give hope.
Bournemouth’s start was cagey, ‘too cagey’ Eddie said after the game and the team sat quite deep with Howe constantly waving his midfield forward. United’s game plan was to try and get James behind Rico which happened a few times but the left-back either recovered well or the defence came to the rescue. Lerma and Billing were snapping into tackles like men not on a suspension threat and Callum and King were much more commanding than in the previous two outings when the ball was played out. It all was looking safe – but could we spark a rare attack or goal? United had the best chances but Fred and James (sounds like a hipster’s humous soul-food van) were not cooking on gas and fired wide with power.
On the break, Bournemouth were clearly following the instructions not to cross the ball high and patiently weaved the ball in and out of the United defence waiting for the low cross opportunity. King released Fraser but he shot tamely at De Gea. Next Fraser wriggled through and took a kick but VAR ruled – no penalty. At the other end, Martial went down in the box only to be dragged back to his feet by the loving, welcoming arms of Lerma who received a booking for his trouble and will now not have to spend next weekend flying to the toon.
We started to press again with Billing and Lerma having shots blocked and one wondered if we had literally forgotten how to score after nearly 350 minutes of impotency. Our Viagra was KING, always able to penetrate his former employer and at it again with a great moment of skill. Reminiscent of his goal against West Ham he flicked Smith’s cross in the air to turn and smash it through De Gea’s legs for the opener right on the stroke of half time.
HT Bournemouth 1 Man Utd 0
The second half started with Bournemouth’s best spell of the game. Lots of high pressing, good energy and breaking at pace. The difficulty was getting clear of United’s back four who always had a foot ready – even tug boat Maguire who poleaxed Calum on the edge of the box. Harry continued his ‘was it a one-off’ free-kick pattern by finding someone sat in row N of the Steve Fletcher stand – poor Diego……. the Spanish free-kick specialist who is the permanent understudy (would it hurt to let him have one go?)
The moves on the break were great from the home side and a lesser keeper than De Gea would not have got a finger-tip to Harry’s drive when he interchanged passes with Callum and skipped across the area before unleashing a thunderbolt.
That was it on the chances front…. the moment hadn’t come, Wilson was subbed and had the joy of having to walk the long way round to a standing ovation from three sides of the ground (we need to do this more often it must be great for morale). Lewis Cook came on and we settled in for the last ten minutes Alamo. Steve Cook and Ake made some tremendous last-ditch tackles, Ramsdale two great stops on the stretch and the one time the defence was breached Mason Greenwood hit the foot of the post on the stretch…. it seemed like an age……. but the whistle came and the roof came off a rain-sodden Vitality.
FT Bournemouth 1 Man U 0
Ramsdale 8 – Three great saves and impeccable kicking and handling.
Smith 8 – Buzzy going forwards and watchful defending.
Ake 8 – Immense athletic watch of Martial (not for the first time)
Cook 9 – Threw himself at absolutely everything – Maguire for England?
Rico 8 – The latest in a long line of ‘best games yet’ for Renaissance Rico
Fraser 7 – Not as productive as previous years but put a shift in and asked some questions
Billing 7 – Clever movement and hoovered up a lot of loose balls on air and ground.
Lerma 7 – Hard working and good ball use. Will be disappointed to be booked for non-tackle.
Wilson 8 – His best game yet, more involved and came into better effect.
King 8 – Great running, skill and took goal fantastically
Wilson 7 – Better hold-up play and energy than of late – no goal sniff though.
MOM – Between Cook, Ake and Rico for me and a fag-paper between them. I personally thought Cook made slightly more goal-saving blocks but wouldn’t fall out with anyone saying the other two.
All we have asked for recently from the players on the pitch is 90 strong minutes. It has evaded us this season but today we had it……..and the result followed. The way we set-up needs teams to attack us, something Watford and Norwich struggled with, forcing a team set up to counter having to play too much in tight spaces with forwards who need space. Today United came and attacked….which allowed us to play how we want to spring at pace and to move with quick interchanges. The trouble was the second didn’t come so we were always hanging on at the end but the defence stood firm for a third clean sheet in a row.
Plusses – apart from the defence, was Harry having the game he did and the work-rate which didn’t drop. Minuses – there weren’t many but our attempts at short corners were woeful and it was noticeable that after half time we didn’t try any and Rico got put back on corner duty – I also thought Fraser was still a little off some of his team mates levels.
To keep some semblance of normality it needs to be pointed out that this is not the Man U of old – they are having their worst start to a season in 33 years and when you look at their squad who would have got in our team today? I am going to say Rashford for Fraser…… quite astonishing really. So to me, it’s less about beating a big-name, which is all United are now, and more about the relief that we can stick on a game for a whole match…it has been awhile. What we need to do is work on how to beat teams that don’t try and attack us and leave space which has been our Achilles heel this year….. Had we done that to Sheff United, Norwich and Watford we would be third now. When I say how good this squad is when they give 90 mins and people tell me to stop thinking we are better than we are, I genuinely believe that would have been a fair reflection of our talent. That said……. we will all take 7th for awhile and it would be great to build on this next week at the toon!
The same formation that we were all going to hell in a handcart a week ago?
Individual performances were simply better today so perhaps Eddie does have it right. H Wilson improving week on week, as is King. Smithy getting up to full fitness. Rico despite early mistakes is gaining more awareness. Billing is like a Rolls Royce in midfield.
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