We round up the talking points from Manchester United’s 2-0 win over Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium on Wednesday night.
Jose Mourinho’s side went ahead through Chris Smalling in the first half, with Romelu Lukaku coming off the bench to score their second as they returned to winning ways ahead of their FA Cup semi-final with Tottenham.
From Mourinho’s team selection to Ander Herrera’s eye-catching performance in midfield, here are five talking points from the game.
Mourinho makes changes
Mourinho vowed to ring the changes after Sunday’s loss to West Brom, saying the trip to Bournemouth would be a chance for fringe players to put themselves in contention for the FA Cup semi-final, and he stayed true to his word. In total, there were seven alterations, with David De Gea, Chris Smalling, Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba the only players to keep their places.
Matteo Darmian, Phil Jones and Luke Shaw were drafted into the defence – helping United keep their 17th clean sheet of the season – with contract rebel Marouane Fellaini making only his second start since November in midfield and Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford joining Jesse Lingard in the front three.
The changes paid off, with Mourinho admitting every player had produced a “positive” performance after the game.
Pogba had been mooted as one of the players likely to be dropped after he was hooked against West Brom on Sunday, but he responded to the latest round of criticism with a commanding performance on the south coast which earned him the man-of-the-match award.
Among his best moments were the clever shimmy in the build-up to Smalling’s opener and the pass to release Lukaku for United’s second. It was his 10th Premier League assist of the season. Only Kevin De Bruyne, Leroy Sane and David Silva have provided more and all three of them have played more games than the Frenchman. He is surely a certain starter against Tottenham on Saturday.
“He was very, very good,” acknowledged Mourinho afterwards.
Sanchez in danger?
For only the second time since his Manchester United debut in January, Alexis Sanchez was left out of Mourinho’s starting line-up. The Chilean dropped to the bench after his subdued showing against West Brom and remained an unused substitute as Mourinho opted to throw on Lukaku, Matic and Daley Blind instead.
Sanchez could benefit from the rest after another hectic season, but Martial and Rashford both impressed in his absence, providing pace and penetration and constantly threatening to get in behind Bournemouth’s backline. Could his place against Tottenham be in doubt? Mourinho has a decision to make.
Smalling’s scoring streak
Having scored just once in his previous 101 appearances, Smalling now has three in his last eight. With his close-range finish from Lingard’s cross, the centre-back scored in a third consecutive Premier League away game. Only Lukaku has netted more Premier League goals for Manchester United in 2018.
Smalling’s goals have boosted United and he was also influential at the other end against Bournemouth. Callum Wilson and Josh King’s pace and movement posed problems, but Smalling defended solidly, making important tackles and interceptions and also posting the highest pass completion rate (96 per cent) of anyone on the pitch.
Herrera makes his case
It has been a difficult season for Herrera. The Spaniard was Manchester United’s Player of the Year last year, but Nemanja Matic’s arrival from Chelsea pushed him down the pecking order and his form suffered. Indeed, it was a surprise to see him start after he was withdrawn at half-time against West Brom on Sunday.
At the Vitality Stadium, however, he looked more like the Herrera of last season. The stats showed he made more tackles and interceptions combined (eight) than any other player, and he impressed in possession too. Herrera dictated the play for long periods, touching the ball more times than anyone else, and he showed his passing ability with the through ball to release Lingard for the opening goal.
Comment below to get involved in the debate, but please adhere to our House Rules. If you wish to report any comment, simply click on the down arrow next to the offending comment and click ‘Report’.