Sunday 26 May 2019

Lukaku strikes to put United back on track

Belgian's goal the difference as Reds survive Cherries scare

Romelu Lukaku heads home Manchester United’s opener against Bournemouth at Old Trafford last night
Romelu Lukaku heads home Manchester United’s opener against Bournemouth at Old Trafford last night
Bournemouth’s Irish midfielder Harry Arter tackles Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku during last night’s Premier League clash at Old Trafford

Romelu Lukaku got a much-needed goal as Manchester United moved on from their galling derby defeat by beating Bournemouth.

Runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City brought an untimely end to United's club record-equalling 40-match unbeaten home run on Sunday, when Pep Guardiola's men opened up an 11-point cushion over their second-place rivals.

Jose Mourinho's Reds rallied after that potentially season-defining defeat by securing a hard-fought 1-0 win at home to Bournemouth through Lukaku's first-half header.

It was just the Belgium striker's third United goal in 15 matches - a poor run that has led the summer signing to come under scrutiny, especially in the wake of Sunday's derby defeat.


Lukaku played an unwitting role in both of City's goals and missed a great chance to level, yet there was no sign of relief after hushing the naysayers with a fine first-half header to open the scoring.

The striker had been guilty of a poor challenge on Bournemouth's Nathan Ake by that point but produced a decent overall display, providing a second-half cross that Anthony Martial somehow failed to convert before Marcus Rashford hit the crossbar.

David De Gea needed to produce some fine saves to prevent Eddie Howe's Cherries from ending a promising display with a positive result as United held out for a solid, if unconvincing, win.

The atmosphere started off understandably sombre given Sunday's derby loss, with the hosts struggling to give the Old Trafford faithful anything to cheer about as the heavens opened during a bright Bournemouth start.

The returning Phil Jones had to produce some impressive last-ditch blocks, but Charlie Daniels was afforded space to gallop through and unleash a drive bound for the bottom corner until De Gea intervened.

Ryan Fraser's cross was the next for the hosts' defence to deal with, with Dan Gosling then skipping past Luke Shaw to sting De Gea's palms as the Cherries threatened a shock opener.

United belatedly jolted into life midway through the opening period, netting with their first shot on target.

Shortly after somehow avoiding action from referee Graham Scott for a clumsy challenge on Ake, Lukaku showed strength and poise to meet a Juan Mata cross with a header that flew into the top right-hand corner.

The 25th-minute opener will have been a relief for the Belgium international, but he was not giving much away.


Shaw almost forced an own goal on his first league appearance of the season as United pushed for a second, but De Gea had to deny a deflected Junior Stanislas strike and Ryan Fraser cross shot before the break.

Mata and Jesse Lingard had attempts when play resumed for the second half, and Martial was guilty of a shocking miss with Asmir Begovic out of position when he met a squared Lukaku pass from close range. Rashford sent a thundering 20-yard effort off the underside of the crossbar but United were now struggling for fluency.

Substitutes Jermain Defoe and Lewis Cook saw fizzing efforts denied by De Gea either side of a blocked stoppage-time strike from Lukaku, but there was to be no late fireworks.

And, unlike the Manchester derby, you would think there will not be any in the tunnel either.

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