Written by Dan Davis (@dan_davis20)
Marcus Rashford bundled home a late winner to cap off a last-gasp Manchester United comeback, and break Cherries’ stoic resistance at Vitality Stadium.
The hosts’ relentless pressure was met with reward after Callum Wilson’s close-range finish on 11 minutes, his 50th strike for the Dorset club, but the in-form Anthony Martial was on hand to level the clash before the break.
Rashford was then introduced in the second period, and delivered the fatal blow in stoppage time after a goalmouth scramble to condemn Cherries to a harsh defeat.
Cherries manager Eddie Howe had made just one change after his side’s 3-0 demolition at Fulham last weekend, with full-back Charlie Daniels dropping out in place of Junior Stanislas, who continued his first-team comeback with his second start in a week.
Adam Smith deputised at left-back, whilst Welsh starlet David Brooks was paired with Wilson up front in the absence of Josh King, as Cherries reverted back to their favoured 4-4-2 formation.
Simon Francis survived a late minor groin problem to captain the hosts once again.
Jose Mourinho’s visitors also boasted a single alteration to their starting XI, as Alexis Sanchez ousted Rashford in the lone striker role.
Romelu Lukaku, who had previously netted against Cherries on eight occasions, failed to make the trip to the south coast after a recent injury setback.
It was Cherries who started the clash at frantic pace, penning the visitors firmly inside their own half, and the first opening arrived after just four minutes.
Incisive build-up play between Wilson and Brooks allowed the latter to pick out Fraser’s bursting sprint into the visitors’ penalty area. However, the Scot’s strike was poor, and David de Gea smothered the effort with his legs at his near upright.
The hosts continued to pile forward in relentless floods, and fashioned another chance on nine minutes.
Fraser terrorised United captain Ashley Young once again on the left touchline, before digging out a delicate cross that floated towards the near post. Wilson slipped in behind his marker and managed to poke the ball towards goal, only for de Gea to stand tall and palm away the effort.
But just a minute later, Cherries’ rapid start was deservedly capped off.
After a corner kick was half-cleared by the visitors, a superb pass from Lewis Cook carved open the United right flank, allowing Stanislas to scamper into yards of space. The winger then duly drilled a venomous delivery across the face of goal, allowing Wilson to coolly tap home beyond the static de Gea.
The hosts threatened to add to their tally soon after, but Brooks couldn’t steer his header towards goal after Wilson’s cross from the by-line allowed the Welshman to drift away from his marker.
On 19 minutes, the visitors’ goalmouth continued its charmed life, after Smith’s driven delivery skidded across the turf at pace and narrowly evaded nestling into the far corner, following lapse defending from both Smalling and Victor Lindelof.
But the Red Devils posed an eminent threat on the counter. In-form French international Martial looked to have wriggled through on goal shortly after, only for a sliding intervention from Steve Cook to deny the visitors a clear shot on goal.
Stanislas was the next Cherries player to chance their arm, after the 28-year-old had cut inside with ease and eyed up the far corner of de Gea’s goal. However, the curling effort was weak and the Spanish gloveman collected with ease.
The home crowd were incensed on 25 minutes, after a strong appeal for a penalty were waved away by referee Paul Tierney.
Fraser continued to bombard down the left touchline, and the Scot’s floating cross looked set to fall towards Brooks inside the box. As the starlet looked to head towards goal, a supposed shove from full-back Luke Shaw denied Cherries a golden opportunity to deservedly double their lead.
It wasn’t until a shade after the half-hour mark that United carved out their first clear chance.
Martial breezed beyond Francis’ attentions on the right-side of Cherries’ penalty area, before dragging the ball back to connect with Fred’s run from deep in midfield. The Brazilian’s strike looked set to hurtle into the far corner, only for Nathan Ake to stand tall and superbly deflect the shot away.
But with the visitors’ first shot on target, Mourinho’s outfit pulled themselves level. Firmly against the run of play, a clever interchange between Young and Sanchez down the right wing created space for the latter to deliver into the box. The ball then dropped kindly for the onrushing Martial to steer beyond Begovic – the Frenchman’s fifth goal in as many matches.
After the equaliser, the visitors once again threatened Cherries’ goal, only for Juan Mata to drag his strike wide of the near upright after Sanchez challenged Ake for a header on the edge of the box.
Before the break, a flurry of end-to-end action resulted in both Wilson and Sanchez being denied by heroic blocks from Smalling and Francis respectively.
And it was Cherries who emerged from the interval the stronger, after another guilt-edged opportunity came and went for the hosts.
On 49 minutes, Fraser raced beyond Young on the left-hand side of the visitors’ penalty area, before the Scottish international cut the ball back across goal. The clever pass was latched onto by Brooks, whose cheeky backheel attempt stung the palms of de Gea at the near post.
Ake then steered a header off target after another inviting cross from Fraser, as Cherries continued to pile on the pressure.
But for all the hosts’ hard work, United should have edged into the lead for the first time on 53 minutes. A neat flick from Martial released Shaw through the home side’s defence, before Begovic came to Cherries’ rescue with a frantic dash off his line to smother the effort.
Mourinho then made a double substitution, introducing Ander Herrera and Rashford in place of Mata and Fred. The attacking change added extra impetus to the visitors’ offensive, and United gradually began to ease into control of the contest.
Firstly, Smalling’s header back into a crowded six-yard box was met by Sanchez, who forced Begovic to palm over the crossbar. Substitute Herrera then went close moments later after strong hold-up play from Pogba, only for the Spaniard to flash a strike narrowly wide of the far post.
On 62 minutes, Young’s free-kick from 20 yards cracked against Begovic’s woodwork, with the ball falling kindly to Rashford inside the box. But as the English international looked to shoot, his touch betrayed him, allowing Ake to throw his body in the way of the shot with Cherries’ gloveman beaten.
The hosts failed to clear once again, this time presenting Pogba with a view of an open goal. However, the Frenchman mis-controlled, allowing Brooks to race in and hack the ball away from the goal line.
Herrera then failed to test Begovic with another scorching drive from distance after Pogba’s powerful surge towards Cherries’ box.
The visitors continued to ramp up the pressure heading into the closing stages, although Brooks almost sealed an unlikely comeback on 80 minutes with a strike towards de Gea’s near post. However, the Spaniard was on hand to stand firm and comfortably punch clear.
As the pulsating clash entered its dying stages, United went close to stealing maximum points. Rashford fed through the returning Jesse Lingard, although the substitute’s effort was weak, allowing Begovic to preserve the score line acrobatically with his legs.
But it would be the visitors who crushed Cherries’ stern resistance, deep inside stoppage time.
Pogba delivered towards the far post, and Ake mistimed his jump to present Rashford with the freedom of the hosts’ penalty area. The English striker took a touch to steady himself, before emphatically burying beyond Begovic to leave Cherries cruelly empty-handed.
Cherries: Begovic, Francis, S. Cook, Ake, Smith, Stanislas (Surman, 90), L. Cook (Gosling, 69), Lerma, Fraser (Ibe, 74), Brooks, Wilson
Unused substitutes: Boruc, Mousset, Daniels, Defoe
Manchester United: de Gea, Young, Smalling, Lindelof, Shaw, Matic, Fred (Herrera, 56), Pogba, Mata (Rashford, 56), Martial, Sanchez (Lingard, 78)
Unused substitutes: Romero, Jones, Darmian, McTominay