Manchester’s United’s transformed attack once again combined devastatingly to give caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer his third successive win with an impressive victory over Bournemouth.
A first half of cavalier attacking football saw United score three times, with Paul Pogba netting his second double in successive games and Marcus Rashford grabbing the other.
They are now only three points behind fifth-placed Arsenal, having trailed by eight following the morale-sapping 3-1 defeat at Liverpool earlier this month.
Pogba poked in his first after Rashford had mesmerised both Nathan Ake and Diego Rico on the right, before the French World Cup winner headed in from Ander Herrera’s precise delivery.
It was 3-0 when Anthony Martial, back in the XI after recovering from a bug, provided a wonderful cross for Rashford to slide his shot past Asmir Begovic.
Bournemouth, who had looked dangerous on set-pieces, pulled a goal back in first-half stoppage time when Ake headed in following good work by David Brooks.
Substitute Romelu Lukaku scored United’s fourth from Pogba’s pass two minutes after coming on, before defender Eric Bailly was shown a straight red card for scything down Cherries midfielder Ryan Fraser.
United have now found the net 12 times in the three matches since Solskjaer took over. This victory means the the 45-year-old has emulated Sir Matt Busby and Jose Mourinho by winning his first three league games in charge.
Solskjaer will be looking to make it a fourth at Newcastle on Wednesday, while Bournemouth remain 12th in the table.
United rediscover old swagger
The loss at Anfield on 16 December seems like an age ago. On that day United’s players trudged off the field having been overwhelmed by their arch-rivals.
Since Solskjaer replaced Mourinho, the Red Devils have reverted to type, playing a style familiar to those who watched attack-minded teams sweep to 13 league titles under Sir Alex Ferguson.
They are not at that level but the watching Ferguson, who turns 77 on Monday, would have been impressed with the way United went about opening up the Cherries’ defence from the first whistle.
Pogba and Rashford led the charge. The first goal was all about the Englishman’s trickery on the right, as he left both Ake and Rico trailing before striking a low cross which was turned in by Pogba.
Pogba’s second was reminiscent of goals scored by former United captain Bryan Robson, as he he arrived late to power home a cross from Herrera.
Rashford’s strike from close range should have capped off a perfect half of football for United, but Ake’s header kept the second half interesting.
Bailly red only cloud on United’s day
United continued to drive at Eddie Howe’s side after the break but Lukaku’s strike, with his weaker right foot, was the only goal they managed for their efforts.
Pogba was denied his hat-trick by a brilliant Begovic save and the post, and the Bosnian keeper also rushed out to block Rashford’s shot.
United only took their foot off the accelerator when Bailly received his third red card while playing for club, 11 minutes from time. The Cherries might argue that Ashley Young should have also been sent off for the reckless manner in which he won the ball from Joshua King in the first half.
Bournemouth were more of a threat in the first half than the second. A King shot which was blocked by Bailly was their best chance after the break.
Man of the match – Paul Pogba (Manchester United)
Pogba continues to shine under Solskjaer – the stats
- United have recorded three consecutive Premier League victories for the first time since a run of five in April.
- After losing their first league clash with Bournemouth in December 2015, United are unbeaten in each of the past seven Premier League games against them (W6 D1).
- No side have kept fewer clean sheets in the Premier League this season than United (two, also Fulham).
- Rashford has provided six assists in 17 Premier League appearances this season; as many as in his previous two seasons combined (77 appearances).
- Pogba has scored four goals in his three Premier League appearances under Solskjaer, as many as he had in his previous 20 under Mourinho.
- Pogba is the first United player to score at least twice in consecutive Premier League appearances since Wayne Rooney in December 2012.
- With four goals and three assists, December 2018 has been Pogba’s best month for goal involvements in his top-flight career.
- Lukaku has scored eight goals in seven Premier League games against Bournemouth – only against West Ham (nine) has he scored more in the competition.
- After just four goal involvements in his first 15 Premier League appearances, Bournemouth’s Brooks has been involved in three in his past three (two goals, one assist).
United travel to Newcastle on Wednesday (20:00 GMT) and Bournemouth are at home to Watford on the same day (19:45 GMT).