Bournemouth gave Manchester United an early scare but Mason Greenwood was the star act in the home side’s response with two goals, while Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial each scored to reach 20 and become the first pair to achieve this feat for the club in the same season since Dimitar Berbatov and Javier Hernández in 2011.
Greenwood registered in each half as United scored five in the league for the first time in nine years. The 18-year-old has 15 for the campaign and is making himself undroppable. His manager was delighted. “He is a fantastic goalscorer,” said Ole Gunnar Solskjær. “The moment he chose the goals, they were very important moments for us. He is a very, very talented boy and we will nurture and manage him as best we can. His general overall play is improving as his fitness and understanding of his position.”
Solskjær was asked to compare Greenwood to Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo, two teenagers he played alongside when a United striker. “I don’t want to compare him to Wazza or Ronaldo – don’t think that’s fair,” Solskjær said, though he did state that he has never seen a better finisher at 18. “I have seen Wayne Rooney at the same age and Mason is a specialist goalscorer he knows exactly what to do with the ball when he’s on the pitch.”
The victory made it 16 unbeaten for United and took them into fourth – at least until Chelsea’s game with Watford on Saturday night. While it was also a third straight league win for the first time since January 2019 Solskjær may be unhappy with the defence even though it has recorded 11 clean sheets in 16 outings.
Greenwood’s first goal was the equaliser, cancelling out Junior Stanislas’s opener, the Bournemouth midfielder nutmegging Harry Maguire before beating the equally hapless David de Gea at the near post from a tight angle. This was the latest in a series of goal-costing errors from the keeper.
United responded. Nemanja Matic, who endured an uneven performance, found Rashford, who had switched flanks, along the right. He turned the ball inside to Bruno Fernandes, who relayed it across to a lurking Greenwood, who proved again how lethal he is with a 20-yard strike that beat Aaron Ramsdale for power as much as accuracy.
Rashford was soon to have his 20th. A lax defence allowed Martial a free header, Adam Smith handled, Mike Dean played advantage, then when none came the referee awarded the penalty. Rashford stroked this to Ramsdale’s left and a happier Solskjær clenched fists in celebration.
A two-minute vignette that ended the half summed up United. When Rashford was not found in the clear his vocal frustration was plain to hear. Moments later Martial stepped inside from the left and curled in a peach off the bar.
The second half began with Eric Bailly replacing the injured Victyor Lindelöf – “His back, hopefully not too bad,” said Solskjær – and Bournemouth’s Arnaut Danjuma coming on for David Brooks.
Almost immediately, Bailly gave away a penalty. A loose Matic pass came too high and up jumped the centre-back and ball hit arm. Dean pointed to the spot and after a prolonged VAR examination the decision stood. Joshua King gave De Gea no chance and this was 3-2, the keeper having earlier again looked shaky when Danjuma beat him again at the near post, the upright this time saving him.
A helter-skelter few minutes took a next twist when Danjuma had a goal disallowed for offside then so did Rashford, before Greenwood restored United’s two-goal lead. This strike, again, was superb, the forward skipping wide and hitting home a right-foot finish.
Fernandes soon had his seventh in 14 United appearances: a 20-yard free-kick that removed the wall and Ramsdale as factors and that was 5-2.
Solskjær said it was a game the Stretford End crowd would definitely have enjoyed, before singling out
Rashford, Greenwood and Martial for praise. “They are on the same team and working towards one common goal. They will improve and we’ve seen that all season: they have improved a lot.”
Bournemouth are second-bottom and have to start winning if they are to avoid relegation. “I didn’t see that result coming after our start in the match,” Eddie Howe said.