The Red Devils continued their enchanted life under Ole Gunnar Solksjaer with a win over Bournemouth at Old Trafford thanks to a Paul Pogba brace and goals from Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku and contributing writer, Nathan Quao, noted a few things after observing the match.
Pogs the Pulveriser
After grabbing two against Huddersfield in the last game, the Frenchman looked ready for more and the expectations were that he would give fans more reminders of his quality. He really did and then some.
After five minutes, he was at the end of the wonderful of work by Marcus Rashford for the opening goal. Later on 33 minutes, he rose brilliantly to head home an Ander Herrera cross.
To top it all off, he set up Romelu Lukaku for the fourth goal for the Red Devils in the second half.
Put all that aside, Pogba controlled the midfield for Man United and he set them going all day. The passing, the energy, the drive and the general disposition revealed the freedom had been craving for and it also released his willingness to defend for the team.
Again, in the second half, he went into a tackle just outside the penalty area to stop a Bournemouth attack and he rose to get the team moving forwards.
He was the undoubted man of the match and long may this continue. Man United’s success will hang on such output over long periods of time.
While Paul Pogba was the man of the day, his team mates, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Romelu Lukaku, were brilliant to watch against Bournemouth.
Their contributions were very telling on the day and they deserve praise.
Rashford showed amazing strength and skill to fend Bournemouth’s defenders off in the build-up to the first goal of the day and he was very intelligent as he sought his goal.
He ran very well into the box to connect to Martial’s cross and it was just reward for what he had been doing on the day.
Martial was not as a prominent as he had been in the last few weeks to months but he managed to get an assist. Perhaps, the period of illness had slowed him down but now that he is back, he will get back upwards on the ladder of intensity.
Lukaku also got his share of the spoils and that will do him a world of good. He was absent for Solksjaer’s first two games and for him to find the net from the bench, it was important.
Reminding the manager that you have something to offer is extremely vital especially in the context of a transition where everyone is jostling for the gaffer’s attentions.
Will there be competition for forward places? Of course and that is very good for the team. When players know that each game is an audition, they will give everything and the team is the ultimate winner in that situation.
On to the New Year
Winning the final three games of the calendar year is very good and there will be a lot of enthusiasm when 2019 rolls by but the challenges get tougher.
Trips to Newcastle United and Tottenham await the Red Devils in the league and they will have to be at their best if they will keep this good run going.
They will need to be emotionally strong at St. James Park; the scene of a 1-0 loss last season. The Magpies may not be playing well but they surely do love a battle with the Red Devils.
Spurs will pose a greater tactical and human resource (in terms of players) challenge and their pursuit of a top four place means they will be up for it at Wembley.
The New Year promises to be very good if the right attitude is maintained and the hunger and desire to do well is always there.
Cleans sheets should start appearing more frequently. There is no need creating a pattern of trying to outscore teams on a regular basis. Rather, teams need to be shut out completely especially at Old Trafford.
And finally, moments of silliness like the Eric Bailly tackle against Bournemouth are not welcome in 2019.
It happened with Man United leading 4-1 this time. It could happen when the situation is a bit more dire and eleven men are needed to make something happen.
Happy New Year, Red Devils.
May 2019 bring good things to Manchester United.