Manchester United bounced back from the disappointment of the derby as a Romelu Lukaku header secured a 1-0 win over a stubborn Bournemouth at Old Trafford.
United had a 40-match unbeaten home run in all competitions ended by Manchester City on Sunday, but got back to winning ways thanks to a first-half Lukaku bullet header. Substitute Marcus Rashford rattled the crossbar midway through the second period, but the single goal was enough for the vital three points.
Jose Mourinho opted to make four changes from the City defeat with the likes of Phil Jones returning for his first start for over a month, while Luke Shaw returned after impressing against CSKA Moscow and Scott McTominay made his first start since the win over Benfica.
Anthony Martial tried a delicate flicked ball over the top which just evaded Lukaku and Juan Mata, before the Cherries began to get a foothold in the game themselves. First, Charlie Daniels tried his luck from 25 yards which forced David De Gea had to save smartly down to his left, before the Spaniard then had to punch away Dan Gosling’s effort.
However, United took the lead when Mata crossed perfectly for Lukaku, who held off two defenders and steered a header into the top corner. His celebrations were subdued, but deep down, the Belgian would have been delighted to be back among the goals.
Moments later, the impressive Jones swung a wonderful 50-yard cross-field pass to Shaw who pulled the ball back and Simon Francis nearly diverted past his own keeper. At the other end, Junior Stanislas cut in from the right-hand side and fired an effort at goal which De Gea again did well to beat away, before Francis nearly scored at the right end, but he fired over when free in the box following another Bournemouth corner.
De Gea was called into action again seconds before the break as Ryan Fraser’s cross so nearly caught the Spaniard off guard, but he managed to scamper across and palm the ball away to maintain the Reds lead.
It took around 15 minutes of the second half for the first real opportunity and it was a chance to put the game to bed. Nemanja Matic crossed for Lukaku who headed the ball down for Martial to tap home, but he skewed his effort over from five yards.
The Reds were dominating possession with young McTominay impressing in the centre of the park, before substitute Rashford came off the bench and so nearly doubled the lead, but rattled the crossbar from 35 yards with a thunderous effort.
The dangerous Jermain Defoe had a shot comfortably saved by De Gea from the edge of the box before Jones made a crucial headed intervention to deny Benik Afobe. Defoe was then thwarted by the knees of De Gea as Eddie Howe’s men looked to snatch a late draw, but despite late Bournemouth pressure, including Fraser testing De Gea again, the Reds saw the game out.
United: De Gea; Valencia (c), Jones, Smalling, Shaw (Young 83); Matic, McTominay, Mata, Lingard (Herrera 71), Martial (Rashford 66); Lukaku.
Subs not used: Romero, Blind, Lindelof, Ibrahimovic.
Bournemouth: Begovic, Smith, Francis (c), Ake, Daniels; Stanislas (Afobe 71), Arter, Gosling (L. Cook 77), Fraser; King, Wilson (Defoe 71).
Subs not used: Boruc, S Cook, Surman Ibe
Booked: Gosling, Arter.
LUKAKU BACK AMONG THE GOALS
United fans would have been delighted to see the big Belgian back on the scoresheet in the Premier League. Lukaku emphasised how deadly he is in the air, holding off two Cherries’ defenders to expertly head past Begovic.
SHAW IMPRESSES AGAIN
Luke Shaw picked up where he left off against CSKA Moscow, impressing with his enthusiastic energy down the flank and he won the ball back on numerous occasions with every tackle cheered by the Old Trafford faithful.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR UNITED?
The Reds travel to Alan Pardew’s West Bromwich Albion on Sunday 17 December, with kick off at 14:15 GMT, with the Baggies buoyed by a goalless draw at Liverpool.