On Wednesday night, I made my first visit of the season to Old Trafford, as Manchester United took on AFC Bournemouth.
Win, lose or draw, I was hoping to have a better time than when I previously went to see United take on Bournemouth, having been evacuated from the ground prior to a match in May 2016, which was ultimately postponed.
United have made progress this season, but not as much as hoped. They’ve advanced in two cup competitions and are still to join in the FA Cup. It’s the League that matters, and United are chasing Manchester City and a gap of eleven points following defeat to them on the Sunday before this.
United sit 2nd in the table, but they’re not in a title challenge at the moment. A win on Sunday would have put them in one. Defeat means they’re the best of the rest, trying to swat off the teams below them instead of trying to overtake the team above them.
In short, this was a must-win game for United. Especially after Chelsea won the night before, and that Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool would be facing clubs in the bottom three and all looking likely to pick up victories.
Jesse Lingard had a spectacular attempt on goal that went wide in the first minute as United went straight on the attack. It was not to be the start of an onslaught.
In fact, it was Bournemouth who had the better of things in the early stages. Charlie Daniels being able to run at United’s defence to have a shot which was saved by De Gea, while Dan Gosling had a shot saved by De Gea after the original cross evaded him.
The best that United could offer was an Anthony Martial cross which narrowly evaded Juan Mata.
On 25 minutes, United took the lead when a header from Romelu Lukaku hit the back of the net. It was against the run of play, but United had the lead.
Lukaku’s only previous involvement prior to that was heading clear in his own box, to sarcastic cheers from a small section of the crowd, which United couldn’t totally get rid of, Phil Jones having to spectacularly head voer in his own six yard box.
The goal didn’t deflate Bournemouth, with David De Gea having to save from Ryan Fraser, who cheekily tried to exploit a gap he left when anticipating a cross.
United began the second-half looking for the second goal they needed to secure the points. Juan Mata had a shot blocked on the edge of the box while Anthony Martial fired over from a few yards out, after Lukaku’s shot was blocked, when he really should have scored.
I was sat in the back row, and one advantage of this was that the Corporate Boxes were right behind me, so I could have a sneaky look at the TVs behind me if I needed to see a replay.
It was Martial’s last involvement in the game as he was subbed for Marcus Rashford.
Rashford’s first involvement was to keep alive a Scott McTominay cross which evaded everyone to set up Jesse Lingard, who slipped. Rashford then hit the bar from the edge of the box, as his introduction gave United’s attack in injection of life that had been missing so far.
Borunemouth responded with a substitution of their own, bringing on Jermaine Defoe. Despite struggling at Bournemouth so far, he’s still a player with an eye for goal. He scored in his first couple of games against United for West Ham, so I have it in my head that he always scores against United.
He gave United fans a worry when his shot from a tight angle was saved by David De Gea’s legs.
The mood wasn’t helped by United’s inability to keep possession. This was summed up by Marcus Rashford trying to win a corner from a corner by hitting it off a Bournemouth player, the ball going straight to Bournemouth’s goalkeeper Asmir Begovic.
As the full-time whistle approached, Bournemouth won a free-kick outside the box, which was teed up to Ryan Fraser, but shot straight at De Gea.
3 minutes and 50 seconds into 4 minutes of injury time, that was Bournemouth’s last chance, as United took the points.
David De Gea being the matchwinner against Arsenal shouldn’t be that much of a surprise, but he shouldn’t be the matchwinner at home to Bournemouth.
It was a win, but not quite the response United needed. They won’t get away with it if they play like it in upcoming games against on form Bristol City, Burnley and Everton.
I would have included Leicester on the list, but they’ve since lost 3-0 at home to Crystal Palace, equally on form.
When I booked the trip, it was unknown if this game would be Tuesday or Wednesday, so I booked Tuesday to Thursday. It meant that I was free on Tuesday evening.
Crewe were scheduled to play Blackburn in an FA Cup 2nd Round Replay. It wasn’t far from Manchester and the ground is easy to get to.
Unfortunately, the match was postponed, but rescheduled for the following day.
I could have went to Burnley or Wigan, but in truth, I couldn’t be bothered.
This was Jose Mourinho’s first home League win against Bournemouth and the first time i’ve been to a United League win of note with him as manager.
My next scheduled trip to Old Trafford is in May for the last game of the season against Watford.
Unfortunately, it’s not looking like a title party.