Marcus Rashford bails out Manchester United's dodgy defence in win at Bournemouth
BOURNEMOUTH -- Three quick points on Bournemouth 1-2 Manchester United in the Premier League on Saturday afternoon:
1. Rashford wins it but United show familiar failings
Manchester United's win at Bournemouth summed up perfectly where Jose Mourinho's team are at the moment: dodgy at the back, reliant on Anthony Martial's goals and in need of a second-half fight-back to erase earlier damage they had inflicted on themselves.
They started slowly again. The conceded first again. Martial scored again and they were better after half-time. Again.
Where Alexis Sanchez had capped the thrilling comeback against Newcastle, it was Marcus Rashford here. The striker, who turned 21 on Wednesday, was left on the bench despite an injury in training on Friday ruling out Romelu Lukaku.
On early in the second half, Rashford missed one golden chance when he hit Nathan Ake from 6 yards out, but he made no mistake when he was gifted a similar chance in stoppage time. A draw could have seen United end the weekend in the bottom half of the table. Instead, they can head into tough trips to Juventus and Manchester City on the back of a positive result.
Still, Mourinho complained after last Sunday's 2-1 win over Everton that his team were struggling to stop goals going in and score them at the other end. He will have seen little at the Vitality Stadium to suggest those problems are close to being fixed.
Bournemouth had three clear chances before Callum Wilson scored early on and when Martial scored for the fourth league game in a row later in the first half, United were lucky it was an equaliser rather than a consolation.
Improvement after the break brought chances for Rashford and Luke Shaw. Ashley Young hit the crossbar with a brilliant free kick and Ander Herrera fizzed shots the wrong side of both posts.
Too often this season United have taken a step backward, having looked like they might just be ready to get going. This looked like it would be another of those days before Rashford made sure it wasn't.
2. Dodgy United defence struggles again
Mourinho's team started last season keeping eight clean sheets in their first 11 games. In the same period this season their tally stands at one. Only Fulham have a worse record and they have the leakiest defence in the league. Against Bournemouth, Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof start together for the eighth time this season, but stability isn't leading to better performances.
Both players struggled in a disastrous opening spell and Bournemouth could have already been 3-0 up before Wilson finally beat David De Gea after 11 minutes.
"Defensively we were awful. Absolutely awful," Mourinho said afterward.
It may not be long before Mourinho is forced into a change. Marcos Rojo is fit again after injury and Phil Jones was back on the bench after missing the last six games. Eric Bailly traveled to Bournemouth but didn't make the squad. It means Mourinho has options ahead of tough trips to Juventus and Manchester City, and after the performance at the Vitality it would not be a surprise to see someone else get a go.
The thought of Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala and Sergio Aguero running at Smalling and Lindelof in the next few games will terrify the 2,500 United supporters who made the long trip down the south coast on Saturday morning.
Jones and Bailly were paired together in the defence that conceded just four goals in the first 10 games last season, and now that both are fit and available there is an argument Mourinho should revisit it.
3. Bournemouth on the verge of making another step up
Ten years ago, United started the season as reigning Premier League and European champions. Bournemouth, meanwhile, were bottom of League Two on -17 points. Their progress over the decade has been incredible and they have every reason to keep looking up.
Eddie Howe's side have almost become the blueprint for teams coming up from the Championship. Since winning promotion in 2015, they have kept a core group of players together while investing in the right players at the right time.
They have spent when necessary -- nearly £50 million on three players in the summer is not small change for anyone -- but it has always been within their means.
Into their fourth season in the Premier League, they are now an established side. Finishes of 16th, ninth and 12th have laid the groundwork for the next step, and in his prematch news conference Mourinho talked about Howe's team as one of the contenders for the Europa League places. If Burnley can do it, Bournemouth can.
The better his team get -- and they were fantastic in the first half against United -- the more the spotlight will focus on Howe. Still only 40, he is the brightest young English manager -- Bournemouth fans sang "We've got the Special One" throughout the 90 minutes here -- and it won't be long before the speculation about his future turns into solid offers. Perhaps, eventually, from Old Trafford.