Thursday 22 February 2018

Boruc foils United as Cherries profit from chaos

Manchester United 1 Bournemouth 1

Jose Mourinho shows his disappointment after Manchester United’s home draw with Bournemouth. Photo: PA
Jose Mourinho shows his disappointment after Manchester United’s home draw with Bournemouth. Photo: PA

Richard Jolly

The bare facts are that Manchester United missed the chance to end their marathon stay in sixth place and Bournemouth picked up a point to arrest the perception they are in freefall.

Facts, though, do not provide the entire picture on an afternoon of contentiousness and controversy. Its consequences could be considerable, and not just if they cost United Champions League football.

Bournemouth's Adam Smith handles the ball from Paul Pogba's cross. Photo: Reuters
Bournemouth's Adam Smith handles the ball from Paul Pogba's cross. Photo: Reuters

If so, they can rue their profligacy and the brilliance of Artur Boruc. Bournemouth's mercurial goalkeeper was at fault for Gareth McAuley's winner for West Bromwich Albion last week. He made amends in magnificent fashion, saving a Zlatan Ibrahimovic penalty and denying Anthony Martial, Wayne Rooney and Paul Pogba amid a string of saves.

Yet even the Pole was upstaged, albeit unwittingly, by the referee. Kevin Friend contributed to the anarchic feel. He sent off one player, after seemingly forgetting he had booked him twice, allowed two others to stay on the field for more reprehensible offences, awarded two penalties, and provided the sense he was guessing after losing control of a surprisingly bad-tempered game.

It came as confusion reigned on the stroke of half-time. Having crunched into a challenge with Rooney, Tyrone Mings stamped on Ibrahimovic's head. It was an offence that went unnoticed by referee Friend, but not by the Swede himself. From the subsequent corner, Ibrahimovic, who had already been cautioned, elbowed Mings. Andrew Surman, the other man cautioned before, pushed the striker, although not with sufficient force to send a man of his size tumbling.

Friend responded by showing a yellow card to Surman and lecturing Ibrahimovic before, belatedly and after seemingly being alerted by United players led by Rooney and one of his officiating colleagues, dismissing the Bournemouth captain, some 160 seconds after he received his second caution. But for those reminders, he seemed set to repeat Graham Poll's infamous error in the 2006 World Cup when he booked the same player - Josip Simunic, in his case - twice while allowing him to stay on the pitch.

Manchester United's Anthony Martial has a shot on goal. Photo: PA
Manchester United's Anthony Martial has a shot on goal. Photo: PA

The contretemps was all the odder as this had seemed set to be a routine home win. The surprise was that it took 23 minutes for United to break the deadlock. The alarming element for Bournemouth was that they were carved open twice inside four minutes, affording first United's record goalscorer and then the world's costliest player far too much space.

Rooney's belated 550th United appearance brought an immediate opportunity to score a first Premier League goal at Old Trafford for 291 days. Antonio Valencia found his unmarked captain with a second-minute cross. Rooney's header looped on to the roof of the net. Then Luke Shaw, making a first league appearance since October, sent Pogba surging clear on the counter-attack. Boruc applied a telling touch to the midfielder's low shot to deflect it wide.

Defensive glitches were not confined to the visitors and Benik Afobe advanced on goal, ignoring Marcos Rojo's ineffectual attempts to tug him down, only to then slip when about to shoot. Yet that was an isolated attack. Play was concentrated at the other end and Boruc continued to excel.

Yet he was beaten when a defender acted with a striker's predatory instinct. When Michael Carrick teed up Antonio Valencia, the Ecuadorian miscued his effort. Rojo reacted, redirecting it beyond the helpless Boruc. It was his first Premier League goal.

His central-defensive partner had fewer reasons to cherish his day. Phil Jones made his comeback after six games on the sidelines. His rustiness was apparent when he caught Marc Pugh, following the Bournemouth midfielder's change of direction. Josh King, whose United career amounted to 14 minutes in two substitute outings, made more an impact against his old club by converting the penalty.

Having looked porous with a full complement of players, Bournemouth seemed to defend with greater determination when depleted, aided by Boruc. Illogically, United looked less incisive when confronted with 10 opponents. Mourinho's response was to make a triple change, with Marouane Fellaini, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard introduced and the EFL Cup final scorer acting as an auxiliary, attacking left-back.

United had an immediate chance to restore their lead, even if it involved none of the newcomers. Valencia's deep cross was hooked back by Pogba and struck Adam Smith on the arm. For the second time, Friend pointed to the penalty spot. This time, there was no change to the scoreline. Boruc plunged to his right to save the Swede's spot kick and earn Bournemouth just a third point of 2017.


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