There appeared an element of confusion between Jose Mourinho and Paul Pogba when he was deservedly given a breather with 10 minutes left on Wednesday night.
Mourinho, who clapped Pogba off and later suggested he was Manchester United’s star performer, gestured for the central midfielder to take his seat on the bench behind him.
Pogba misunderstood, seemingly thinking his manager was thumbing for him to head down the tunnel and actually obliged before being called back.
Romelu Lukaku scored for Manchester United as they secured a 2-0 victory at Bournemouth on Wednesday evening
The United No 9 fired past Asmir Begovic in the second half to seal the points following Paul Pogba’s run and pass
Pobga congratulates Lukaku after the pair of big-money signings combined to give United breathing space on Wednesday
Chris Smalling opened the scoring for United on Wednesday night, netting from Jesse Lingard’s pull back on 28 minutes
The defender is congratulated by his United team-mates after giving them a first-half lead in the Premier League clash
Smalling slid in to score into an empty net after a sprawling Begovic failed to cut out Lingard’s low ball into the box
Bournemouth had a couple of penalty shouts turned down including after Callum Wilson tussled with Luke Shaw in the box
MATCH FACTS, PLAYER RATINGS AND LEAGUE TABLE
Begovic 5.5; Francis 6, S Cook 5.5, Ake 7, Daniels 5.5; Fraser 6, L Cook 6.5, Surman 6 (Gosling 75min), Ibe 5.5 (Mousset 56, 6); King 5 (Defoe 83); Wilson 5.5.
Subs not used: Boruc, Pugh, Arter, Simpson
Booked: L Cook, S Cook, Surman
Manager: Eddie Howe 5.5.
Manchester United (4-3-3):
De Gea 6.5; Darmian 6, Smalling 7, Jones 7, Shaw 6; Fellaini 5, Herrera 7.5 (Matic 72, 6), Pogba 7 (Blind 80); Lingard 6.5 (Lukaku 62, 6.5), Rashford 7, Martial 6.5
Subs not used: Pereira, Bailly, Young, Sanchez
Scorers: Smalling 28, Lukaku 70. Booked: Smalling
Manager: Jose Mourinho 7
Referee: Graham Scott 6
MOTM: Ander Herrera
RATINGS BY KIERAN GILL
- Premier League
- Premier League
- League One
- League Two
- Scottish Premiership
- Scottish Div 1
- Scottish Div 2
- Scottish Div 3
- Ligue 1
- Serie A
- La Liga
Manchester United took the lead through Chris Smalling’s first half goal, which came after a neat passing move from the visitors. For more details and statistics see our Match Zone.
Nothing, not even the niceties, seem to be straightforward for the pair at the moment. That will only be corrected if nights like this become more common.
There really was no confusion over Pogba’s display down in Bournemouth. This was a reaction – and a substantial one at that – to stinging criticism, the humiliation of Sunday afternoon and a worrying relationship with Mourinho.
He certainly looked worth the hassle for five second-half seconds to take the game away from Bournemouth. Sometimes five seconds is all Pogba’s needs.
Make no mistake, United were under the pump before their second goal, before Pogba moved into sixth gear and took this beyond their hosts, who were aggrieved at penalty decisions and near misses in search of an equaliser
When Pogba – whose future is remains exceptionally uncertain indeed – picked up loose possession a few yards into his own half with 20 minutes to go, this felt as if it were going to be over in a flash.
Imposing and brutish, the Frenchman reminded Mourinho what he is about, carrying the ball 40 yards and shrugging off anyone who might want to try to intercept his path.
Josh King tries to dribble away from United right back Matteo Darmian during the first half of the Premier League clash
Pogba, who could leave United this summer, had a big hand in the second goal after starting the Premier League clash
Ander Herrera, whose fine through ball helped set up the opening goal, attempts to keep the ball despite King’s challenge
Pogba looks to find a team-mate as Jordon Ibe (right), Lewis Cook (left) and Phil Jones (second left) look on on Wednesday
Suddenly Pogba was in shooting range. Now it was about choosing the right option and he did, slipping in the rushing Romelu Lukaku. The weight of pass was perfect, Lukaku clipping past Asmir Begovic to make sure his debut campaign at Old Trafford will be remembered for scoring more goals than he’s ever managed before.
And with Lukaku’s 27th of the term, United effectively sealed Champions League qualification for next season. One point is all they need now.
‘I’m not very good on man of the match, I’m not a big fan of it, but Paul Pogba played very well,’ Mourinho said. ‘The City performance was special and this was at a very similar level. He can do it.’
United can do it too, let’s not forget, but their chronic lack of consistency has been a severe undoing. That is partly why Mourinho ripped his team up down on the south coast with seven changes, throwing selection for Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham wide open. The West Brom debacle simply will not do and felt like a nadir.
‘I don’t accept it,’ Mourinho said. ‘That’s why my face is (like this) from last weekend. I live with it.’
Opportunity therefore knocked. Pogba took his, although more of a final chance, after being told to get his act together. Marcus Rashford, starting just a second Premier League game since Boxing Day, was the other real beneficiary with Ander Herrera not too far behind. Rashford engineered the opener after 28 minutes.
Marouane Fellaini, who has been linked with a move away this summer, is tackled by Ryan Fraser during the first half
Pogba battles for possession with Cook, a midfielder who has been tipped for a call up to England’s World Cup squad
Marcus Rashford battles with Bournemouth’s Fraser during the first half as United sought a win before their FA Cup semi-final
Ibe looks to work a left-footed cross into the penalty area while Jones attempts to track him on the Bournemouth left
The 20-year-old tenaciously chased down Nathan Ake out wide, forcing Begovic into completing the first save of the game. He showed a purpose that has been missing.
From that corner the ball broke to Jesse Lingard, to Pogba, Lingard and then Herrera. United suddenly had an edge. Suddenly there was movement.
Lingard intelligently darted clear, demanding the ball. Herrera delivered neatly between defenders and from there United were in, Lingard sliding across the six-yard box for Chris Smalling to tap home. Individualism has reigned under Mourinho but this provided evidence of what the sum of that could be with a flicker of dexterity.
Bournemouth more than threatened an equaliser. Eddie Howe demanded a higher tempo, saw chances come and go, and looked incensed at Graham Scott’s refusal to award a penalty when Luke Shaw seemed to tug Callum Wilson back from Josh King’s devilish centre when just a goal down.
Veteran midfielder Michael Carrick (right) took his place on the Manchester United bench alongside Jose Mourinho
Bournemouth forward Wilson appeals for a penalty as the home side sought a way back into the Premier League clash
Anthony Martial, who has also been linked with a move away from United this summer, looks to find a pass on Wednesday
‘Callum’s got goalside and is thrown off balance,’ Howe said. ‘It’s a penalty. That’s a key moment.’
Rashford and Lingard are so often the key for United and it can be no coincidence that both are so wedded to the club. Lingard now looks like the master of anticipation in a three behind a central striker, pouncing on indecision to turn the opposition over.
One precise ball to Rashford, splitting defenders as a result of the striker’s clever run, showcased their danger. Mourinho could do worse than to play on that telepathy if his true goal as manager is to entertain.
Rashford would later go close from the edge of the box; it’d be a travesty if he did not start at Wembley. It’d also be a travesty if Mourinho allowed this Paul Pogba to leave in the summer. But he needs this version far more often.
Lukaku fires a free kick at goal during the second goal – he missed but the forward would not be denied minutes later
France international Pobga was replaced during the second half of the Premier League clash by Holland’s Daley Blind
Blind spectacularly miskicks a left-footed shot in the closing stages, much to the delight of the Bournemouth supporters