Manchester United Drop Crucial Points In Top Four Dash

Another home match against a bottom half side, another frustrating draw. It seems no matter what Mourinho does to improve his squad with matches in domestic cups and in Europe, the Premier League performances seem to endlessly disappoint Manchester United supporters.

In a weekend where a win would see United go 4th until Arsenal v. Liverpool concluded, and then into 5th until the next Matchweek, an opponent such as Bournemouth would have been a welcome guest. United won the away match on the opening day of the season and the Cherries have just one point from their last six games, and have never beaten (nonetheless scored at Old Trafford) Manchester United at home.

Jose Mourinho gave the EFL Cup Final Man of the Match and Manchester United February Player of the Month Zlatan Ibrahimovic a start and Wayne Rooney and Luke Shaw saw themselves in the starting XI as well. Michael Carrick, whose testimonial match was announced earlier in the week, would be paired alongside Paul Pogba in midfield.

As expected, United were on top early and had a catalog of fantastic chances early in the first half. Martial and Pogba both had shots saved by Artur Boruc and Zlatan had one or two chances neutralised by a Bournemouth back four who seemingly welcomed United’s attacking players behind and in. It was however, a combination between Marcos Rojo and Antonio Valencia following a corner that gave United the lead. The score could have easily been 3 or 4:0 by the time United took the lead, but as has been the theme of the season, chances taken but not converted.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cherries defender Tyrone Mings tussled in the centre of the pitch which earned the Swede a caution and an ugly, late challenge by Bournemouth captain Andrew Surman earned him a yellow as well. In the 40th minute, the visitors had themselves a rare chance which saw Marc Pugh sprint into De Gea’s box and taken down by Phil Jones which was penalised with a penalty. Former United youngster Josh King duly converted from the spot and equalised. For the remainder of the first half, tensions were on the rise as Zlatan and Mings continued to duel and during a corner, the two became tangled again and it appeared the defender leapt into Zlatan’s elbow, but Surman did not take kindly to the incident and shoved the striker to the ground, earning him his second yellow and reducing his side to 10-men. Half-time came with both sides level.

The second half started with United with a little slower tempo than in the first. The passes were slower and there were fewer chances, despite having a one man advantage. The chances United did have, however, were on target but Boruc kept out the efforts of Wayne Rooney, Ibrahimovic and Martial once more. Jose decided on one of his trademark triple-substitutions at the 70th minute, seeing Rooney, Carrick and Shaw replaced by Rashford, Fellaini and Lingard. Still United pressed, still nothing to show for their pressure.

Paul Pogba did not have a good afternoon once again. Later in the second half, the French midfielder had three or four chances that he either missed or flubbed entirely. United were awarded a penalty after a handball in the box which Zlatan stepped up for. However, he telegraphed his placement and Boruc saved brilliantly to his lower right to keep the scores level at fulltime.

There were many talking points. Did Zlatan and Mings deserve to be sent off with Surman? All of the chances United had, how many does it take to win in the League? Did the draw end United’s hopes of a top four finish, and Champions League football along with it? These are all questions that will be asked over the week, before United fly to Russia to face Rostov in the Europe League Round of 16 on Thursday night and Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup on Sunday. Even with a 17-match unbeaten record in the Premier League, eight are draws and if Mourinho wants United in the top flight of Europe next season, his team will need to convert their chances to get all three points.

CONVERSATIONS