Monday 19 March 2018

Bournemouth stun depleted United to pile more pressure on Van Gaal

Bournemouth 2 Manchester Utd 1

Joshua King puts Bournemouth ahead 2-1
Joshua King puts Bournemouth ahead 2-1
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal
Bournemouth's Harry Arter with manager Eddie Howe after the game
Marouane Fellaini gets Manchester United back level
Bournemouth's Matt Ritchie controls the ball under pressure from Daley Blind

Paul Doyle

Bournemouth extended the greatest period in their league history by humbling Manchester United a week after winning at Chelsea. Junior Stanislas and Josh King scored either side of a goal by Marouane Fellaini, leaving Eddie Howe celebrating unprecedented achievements as United fans question harder what Louis van Gaal's philosophy really means for their club.

The midweek elimination from the Champions League made this a critical fixture for Van Gaal, whose team have now failed to win in five matches. United returned to domestic duty with a side even more depleted than the one beaten in Wolfsburg in midweek, with Bastian Schweinsteiger suspended and Chris Smalling and Matteo Darmian adding to the club's long casualty list. So Van Gaal was forced to field an inexperienced back four, Paddy McNair and Guillermo Varela joining Daley Blind and Premier League debutant Cameron Borthwick-Jackson.

But sympathy has been in short supply for Van Gaal, whose pre-match grumbles about United fans' unreasonable expectations did little to raise the mood around the club. And Bournemouth certainly had no time for sob stories, as Howe has had to contend with a fraction of United's resources and an injury roster just as debilitating.

The hosts did not lack confidence and after triumphing at Chelsea last week, they quickly demonstrated their eagerness to topple another giant. Bournemouth went for United's suspected weak spot immediately, tearing into the rejigged defence. They almost opened the scoring in the first minute when Dan Gosling hurled himself at a free-kick from the left. Fellaini deflected the midfielder's header behind for a corner.

United's woes were about to deepen, as Stanislas scored directly from the set-piece, David de Gea's fingertips not strong enough to prevent a curling delivery from going in at the back post.

Artur Boruc tipped away a 10-yard shot from Fellaini after the Belgian pounced on a loose ball, and then dived to save Michael Carrick's headed follow-up. It was an encouraging reaction from United, who benefited from an unwitting assistance from Stanislas in the 18th minute, when a wayward pass from the forward led to Anthony Martial racing clear through on goal. The striker fired a low shot inches wide.

However, United fans were growing concerned by the absence of more clear scoring opportunities. Moments later their team drew level. Carrick aimed a fine pass over the Bournemouth defence and the lively Memphis Depay killed the ball on his chest before opening fire from 12 yards. Boruc saved but Fellaini reacted sharpest to bundle the rebound into the net. Still, things remained far from rosy for United. And they suffered yet another injury on the half-hour when Jesse Lingard had to be replaced by Andreas Pereira.

The scoreline of 1-1 at the break seemed just and United could be satisfied with the showing of their youngsters, although Martial was at times wasteful. Howe also had reason to be cheerful - even more so when his team regained the lead early in the second half. Simon Francis marauded all the way into the United box in the 52nd minute and unleashed a shot that De Gea batted behind for a corner. Bournemouth enacted a well-planned set-piece and Blind lost track of King, allowing the forward to hammer Matt Ritchie's low delivery into the net from eight yards.

United grew frantic in their search for another equaliser and their raggedness left them more vulnerable to the speed of Bournemouth. Francis's foiling of Fellaini on the hour was one of several excellent blocks.

Glenn Murray had a great chance when he beat United's shoddy offside trap but the striker sent his shot skywards. Van Gaal again tried a puzzling solution, introducing Nick Powell and Phil Jones as Ashley Young and Morgan Schneiderlin stayed on the bench. United haphazardly chased an equaliser that Bournemouth made sure never came.

Yesterday's defeat capped a really bad week for Van Gaal's side. On Tuesday United went out of the Champions League in Germany with a 3-2 defeat at Wolfsburg. The players' Christmas party, set for this evening, was duly scrapped, the squad feeling their recent run of poor form did not merit a night out. Criticism that the Dutchman's football 'philosophy' was contrary to the club's tradition of bold, attacking football were borne out by data showing United to be the Premier League's dullest side.

A prime 'boring' indicator had United - before yesterday's match - making 73 passes per attempt on goal; taken as an average that is 16 more than any other team. And in a sharp contrast to the style of football epitomised in the Ferguson era, United have the most goalless draws, and their matches until yesterday's fixture on the south coast had seen a mere 30 goals, the second fewest. With all this and now the dreaded Thursday nights of the Europa League to come, the pressure is certainly mounting on the Dutchman.


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