Marcus Rashford scores again as Man Utd cruise to win over Bournemouth

Marcus Rashford scored again as United secured a seventh consecutive home win (PA)
Marcus Rashford scored again as United secured a seventh consecutive home win (PA)

If the Theatre of Dreams had appeared misnamed at times in recent years, at least as far as its major characters were concerned, now it is starting to stage the same sort of drama time and again: a Manchester United win. A seventh consecutive home victory in all competitions and a fourth in a row in the Premier League without conceding was scarcely a spectacular outcome but United can welcome that. Goals from Casemiro, Luke Shaw and, inevitably, Marcus Rashford dispatched Bournemouth and if there was a routine feel to the result, United may savour that.

In the previous four seasons, they had barely won a majority of home league games, just 39 of 76, never with more than 10 in a campaign. Erik ten Hag’s reign began with defeat here to Brighton. Since then, however, they have shown signs of turning Old Trafford back into a fortress. Their reward is a five-point cushion in fourth place and a round of fixtures where Liverpool have lost, Newcastle have drawn and Chelsea have to face Manchester City is taking on a productive look for United.

So, too, is Rashford’s form: he has scored in all four outings since the World Cup and, whatever his timekeeping when it comes to team meetings, his burst of goals has helped United settle into life after Cristiano Ronaldo.

While Ten Hag believes his side need another striker in January, he has a potent winger. That said, victory was sealed by a defensive midfielder and a left-back, each courtesy of a well-timed burst into the box.

Certainly it feels as though there are few things Casemiro cannot do. He has returned from the World Cup in imperious form – indeed, given Shaw and Rashford’s performances since they came back from Qatar, United feel beneficiaries of the winter tournament – and, after an uneventful first 20 minutes, the Brazilian scored a goal forged in the summer transfer market.

Christian Eriksen whipped in a free kick and Casemiro ghosted in past Dominic Solanke to volley past Mark Travers. For Bournemouth, it was a variation on an unhappy theme. Gary O’Neil’s side had conceded twice from corners against Crystal Palace on Saturday and set-piece frailties could yet cost them their place in the Premier League.

United had saluted the most successful of their World Cup contingent: the winner Lisandro Martinez was afforded an ovation when paraded on the pitch before kick-off and again when summoned as a late substitute. Even before then, Ten Hag had reconfigured his defence. Raphael Varane was benched to manage his fitness. For Harry Maguire, after the ignominy of being benched so Shaw could play centre-back at Wolves, there came a return to the team. For Shaw, his temporary stint in the middle over, the more familiar duties on the flank that allowed him to venture forward. He took advantage of being liberated to score just his fourth goal for United, slotting in from Alejandro Garnacho’s cutback. The young Argentinian later jinked infield to curl a shot against the post and had another effort parried by Mark Travers. He sparkled and a staple of the Old Trafford songbook – “Viva Ronaldo” – has been repurposed to celebrate him instead.

Garnacho was introduced just before half-time when one of Donny van de Beek’s finest United displays was abruptly curtailed as he hobbled off after a Marcos Senesi slipped into a challenge. The Dutchman’s display was a sign of how they seem a more coherent team under Ten Hag but just his second league start of the season came because Antony was injured, so Bruno Fernandes began on the right wing. Rashford ended up there, and they combined for United’s third. Fernandes met Shaw’s diagonal pass with a low volleyed centre and Rashford applied the simple finish. It mattered not that their striker had a quiet night. Anthony Martial had headed past the post in either half but, as is often the case, did not complete the game. That desire for forward reinforcements may reflect concerns about his fitness as well as if he can prove prolific enough.

Rashford wrapped up the three points at Old Trafford (Reuters)
Rashford wrapped up the three points at Old Trafford (Reuters)

Bournemouth may have similar worries. Scorers of 11 goals in their four games prior to the World Cup, they are yet to find the net in four since it. Arguably their three best chances fell within a minute and, on each occasion, they were denied by David de Gea. His first and best stop was to repel Philip Billing’s header before he held Solanke’s. Then, as United suddenly wobbled, he had to claw away an effort from Jaidon Anthony. The left wing-back was particularly lively and De Gea had to save another shot from Anthony in injury-time before, freakishly, Siriki Dembele hit the bar with a cross. But United weathered those alarms and have not been breached since their trip to Fulham on 13 November. And solidity at the back, like home form, has been the bedrock of many a successful campaign.