The early kick off on Saturday saw the newly crowned League Cup winners take on a Bournemouth side who have been struggling for form in the league. It was a much changed United side, with Jones & Shaw returning from injuries and Rooney making a rare start in place of Herrera. Bournemouth only made one change to their starting eleven with Wilshire only fit enough to make the bench so Joshua King started with Afobe in a rare, but traditional 4-4-2.
The game was one which started brightly, with United having their first shot on target within 90 seconds of kick off, and they continued to show a good attacking flair against a Bournemouth side who have struggled defensively recently. It wasn’t all United though, with Bournemouth playing very direct football and a ball over the top left Rojo isolated against Afobe, who slipped once he tried to round De Gea and the chance went. It wasn’t long until United did take the lead thanks to a low ball across the box from Valancia which was turned in by Rojo, for his first league goal for United.
You would have thought that this would have been the flood gates opening against a Bournemouth side who had looked unable to contain this United side. However, on one of United’s attacks Mings went in hard but fairly on Rooney with Ibrahimovic falling over the latter. Ming’s then looking as if he was trying to get back into position avoided Rooney before planting his stoods into the side of Zlatan’s head as he leaped over him. This was missed by referee, Kevin Friend, yet was the first act of what would be the main drama of the first half. A few minutes later and Bournemouth had a throw in, whilst this was being taken, Zlatan and Mings had their second coming together which ended with Zlatan throwing Mings to the floor, both players were spoken to yet no other action was taken from Kevin Friend.
Following Act I & Act II of the Zlatan & Mings drama, the football continued and Bournemouth won one of the clearest penalties you will see in a football match as Marc Pugh turned Phil Jones in the box and was brought down as Jones dived in. Zlatan, someone who is definitely not a quiet and retiring person, then spoke to Friend, as Bournemouth were preparing to take the penalty and had his name taken by the referee for whatever he said. Former United youth player Joshua King took the penalty and scored with an unstoppable strike into the top right corner.
Then Act III arrived as a ball came in to the box from a short corner towards Zlatan and Mings, who were both going for the header at the far post; though Zlatan attacked Mings with his elbow, rather than the ball with his head. In the chaos that followed Surman pushed Zlatan, who fell to the ground, and Kevin Friend showed an immediate yellow card to the Bournemouth player. Friend then spoke to Rooney and Zlatan about the incident and decided to take no further action against the United player. Friend then realised, with the help of the United players, that the yellow he showed to Surman was his second of the game and went and showed him the red card.
The second half began with Mings winning the ball and stepping on Zlatan’s foot, this could have indicated that there was about to be more of the same, however, what we saw instead was a Bournemouth side become more organised and close the gaps which United had exploited in the first half. United dominated the second half with possession and chances and were very patient in their approach. United then won a dubious penalty, with the ball striking Smith’s hand with only a couple of yards between him and Pogba. Up stepped Zlatan, if there was a man who you would put a bet on scoring from 12 yards out it would be him, but Boruc dived to his left and got a good hand to the shot and pushed it away.
After this United tried to force the win, with Fellaini, Rashford and Lingard coming on for Rooney, Carrick and Shaw, they tried to put the ball in the box anyway they could yet Bournemouth had sat deep and were winning headers. Bournemouth were still a threat on the counter, but didn’t test De Gea in the second half. United kept on creating chances with Pogba having two chances very late on in the game, both times he miskicked the ball, not great for the worlds most expensive footballer.
Overall the game went from an open, end to end game, to a game where one team had their backs against the wall whilst the other tried to attack, yet seemed to be lacking the cutting edge. Unfortunately, as a United fan, it was another draw at home against a side which we should have been beating. So far this season we have drawn more league games than we have won, and this is going to be the biggest reason why we may not reach the top 4 places. This will only make the Europa League more important for Mourinho’s side as it could end up being the best way to reach the Champions League next year.