Two days later than planned, Manchester United signed off for the 2015/16 Barclays Premier League season with a comfortable 3-1 victory over Bournemouth at Old Trafford.
The Reds knew a point would guarantee entry into the Europa League group stages and avoid a qualifying tie in July, and goals from Wayne Rooney, Marcus Rashford and Ashley Young ensured it was mission accomplished in that sense.
Of course, this match should have been played 48 hours earlier after Sunday’s security alert had forced the initial fixture’s abandonment and that had an impact on the crowd inside Old Trafford with not everyone who was here on Sunday able to make the rearranged meeting. It was the same XI for United that was due to start the original match though, with Marcos Rojo and Matteo Darmian missing out through injury and illness ruling out Morgan Schneiderlin.
Before kick-off, David De Gea was presented with the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award but neither the Spaniard or his opposite number Adam Federici had much to do in a quiet opening quarter of the match.
The best attack of the first period came just after the half-hour mark when a Rooney free-kick found an unmarked Michael Carrick in the area, but the midfielder was unable to make enough contact on it to trouble Federici.
The Cherries had half a chance eight minutes before the break when a low cross found Marc Pugh in the box, but his goalbound effort was well blocked by Antonio Valencia.
With two minutes left on the clock, the best move of the first period led to the first goal and Rooney’s 100th Old Trafford strike in the Premier League. The captain started the fine move with a pass out to the left wing. A neat one-two between Juan Mata and Anthony Martial led to the latter crossing for Rooney who, after a nice dummy from Rashford, slotted home from close range.
The Cherries were quick out of the blocks after the restart with Callum Wilson seeing a shot blocked by Smalling and Dan Gosling firing over, but United should have had a penalty on 50 minutes when Mata was clearly tripped by Steve Cook when put through by Martial, but referee Jonathan Moss surprisingly waved away the appeals.
The Reds went close to a second goal on 54 minutes when a belting Carrick drive deflected off Tommy Elphick and onto the bar, with Martial unable to pounce on the rebound.
After very little goalmouth action in the first 45, United had upped the attacking threat and the chances kept coming. Rashford’s weaving run led to a blocked effort from Mata and a deflected shot just off target from Lingard. The resulting corner eventually dropped to Valencia who saw a blistering 35-yard piledriver superbly tipped over by Federici. Smalling and Mata fashioned further efforts but the score remained 1-0.
The advantage was finally doubled 16 minutes from time, however, when that man Rashford fired his eighth goal in 17 games. Rooney’s pinged pass found the head of Valencia who cushioned the ball to Rashford to sweep home brilliantly in front of the Stretford End.
Young came off the bench to take the place of Martial up front and duly found the net with three minutes left after being put through by the excellent Rooney; it was Young’s first goal since United beat Manchester City 4-2 in April 2015.
Despite an unfortunate injury-time own goal by Smalling, it proved to be a routine victory for the Reds who took part in a lap of appreciation after the final whistle to thank the Old Trafford faithful for their support all season. Now for Wembley!