Manchestr, United Kingdom: Marcus Rashford scored again as Manchester United stretched their winning run in all competitions to six games with a comfortable victory over a hapless Bournemouth in the Premier League.
The England international tapped into an empty net after a Bruno Fernandes pass to score in a three successive Old Trafford league games for the first time.
His goal rounded off the scoring after Casemiro latched onto a Christian Eriksen free-kick with a beautifully cushioned volley to put Erik ten Hag’s side ahead half way through the first half.
They doubled their lead four minutes into the second period as Luke Shaw, playing in his more accustomed left-back role again, swept home an Alejandro Garnacho cut-back to complete a beautiful free-flowing move.
United had started slowly, having a lot of possession in their defensive third but, once they found the opener, a seventh successive home win in all competitions never felt in doubt.
They stay fourth, but join third-placed Newcastle on 35 points, and, perhaps most importantly, have opened up a five-point cushion on fifth-placed Tottenham.
One negative for United was a first-half injury sustained by midfielder Donny van de Beek, with Ten Hag saying “we need to wait 24 hours, but it is not looking very good”.
Bournemouth, who failed to have a shot on target until the 57th minute, stay 15th, two points clear of the relegation places.
Casemiro delivers for ever-improving United
It took time for £70m man Casemiro to make his mark at Old Trafford, with the 30-year-old not starting any of his first seven Premier League games after joining from Real Madrid.
Questions were asked about whether he was a Ten Hag signing, but he has started the Reds’ past 10 Premier League games – a run which has seven wins and two draws, alongside a defeat at Aston Villa.
His finish, a cushioned volley from seven yards, was a touch of class. He ghosted in behind the Bournemouth defence, opened his body and steered Eriksen’s pinpoint cross from the left into the top corner.
It broke the game open after a tentative start and that allowed Shaw to score a magnificent end-to-end goal. The England left-back started the move on the edge of his own box, before tucking home from the penalty spot.
Rashford was then supplied with the easiest of finishes for his fourth goal in four games since the post-World Cup resumption.
United host neighbours Man City in their next league game on 14 January, and could end that game above their city rivals, which would be a strong indication of the improvement they are making under Ten Hag.
Nervy times for Bournemouth
Games against the likes of United are not going to decide Bournemouth’s Premier League future, but manager Gary O’Neil wanted a reaction after “the worst” performance of his reign against Crystal Palace on New Year’s Eve.
Whether he got one he was satisfied with, only he will know.
To concede from a set-piece, after limiting United in the early exchanges, will frustrate O’Neil, as will a goal so close to his half-time team talk.
The second goal did seem to wake Bournemouth up, with three shots on target following in a minute, but there will surely be doubt creeping in on the south coast, despite new chairman Bill Foley insisting the Cherries “will not be relegated” last week.
Funds are available for new players in the January transfer window, and a creative spark will likely feature high on O’Neil’s wishlist with the Cherries looking toothless for large periods