Tuesday 23 January 2018

Rashford on the mark as United sign off

Manchester United 3 Bournemouth 1

Marcus Rashford competes with Simon Francis (Getty Images)
Marcus Rashford competes with Simon Francis (Getty Images)

Tim Rich

Like the last drunk at a party, Manchester United staggered into the night having overstayed their welcome and bored everyone around them witless.

There was a brief moments of sparkle, three fabulously constructed goals engineered by Wayne Rooney that ensured the self-style world's greatest club would end the season in fifth place.

Marcus Rashford celebrates scoring
Marcus Rashford celebrates scoring

Had they scored more goals over the season or 17 more last night, had they entertained and dared a bit more, they would have beaten Manchester City to a Champions League place. As it is, the further shores of European football await them in the Europa League, although this win ensured they will not have to pre-qualify for the tournament.

Afterwards, Louis van Gaal grabbed a microphone and gave a brief, emotional address to what remained of the crowd. It was drowned out by the chants from the Bournemouth supporters and did not contain the word "goodbye". It offered only encouragement to support them in Saturday's FA Cup final, the saving grace of a wretched season.

Accelerated

When Anthony Martial took Juan Mata's pass, accelerated away and squared the ball to Rooney, there were 47 minutes remaining and just 18 goals wanted. Fairly typically for United under Van Gaal, it had been their first attempt on goal of any note.

The second half, featuring a drive from Michael Carrick that crashed down from the crossbar and Adam Federici's superlative save from Antonio Valencia (both of whom might be playing their last match at Old Trafford) was rather more involving.

Given the chaos caused by Sunday's bomb scare, you might have expected Old Trafford to be ring fenced by men in high-visibility jackets. Instead, and rather refreshingly, it was all rather relaxed.

Anthony Martial in action with Simon Francis (Getty Images)
Anthony Martial in action with Simon Francis (Getty Images)

"This is an important security announcement, please do not leave bags unattended," echoed the tannoys at regular intervals. None of the announcements finished with the line "Or tape fake bombs to a toilet and then forget about it", as United's security firm had done.

When United's fans began leaving early, the Bournemouth supporters began chanting: "Is there a bomb scare?"

The season finished with the now obligatory 'lap of appreciation' to a stadium that was even emptier than it when the match opened with 11 mascots dressed up to look like characters from the upcoming X Men Apocalypse, produced by Manchester United's media partner, Twentieth Century Fox.

West Ham have been heavily criticised for selling off everything at Upton Park that can be moved but United have long been adept at selling their soul.

But for the incompetence of their security consultants, one of the rare successes of the season, the under-21 side's winning of their Premier League title would have been celebrated in front of a full house.

Marcus Rashford, the other great success of this season, might have expected to have featured more for Warren Joyce's side than Van Gaal's. He found the net again, although his goal, like Ashley Young's third, owed a debt to Rooney, who at least played, as he usually does, like the game meant something to him.

Bournemouth's season has been as successful as United's has been deflating and those who had journeyed back up for the rearranged game deserved something. It came in the form of Chris Smalling putting through his own net. This season the first goal at Old Trafford was an own-goal and so was the last. (© Independent News Service)

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