For most of the last seven years, Manchester United and their fans have looked to the past. They have dreamed of the glory days of Sir Alex Ferguson and shuddered at the memory of the misadventures they endured under David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho. For one reason after another, they have been unable to move on.
For the first time since 2013, that is changing. United are learning to love the present and the future at last. Suddenly, there is the kind of excitement at the club about what lies ahead that has not been seen here since the Class of 92 emerged from United’s youth team and helped to take the Premier League by storm.
United are still a long way away from emulating that kind of success but the fearlessness of youth is working its magic again. Bruno Fernandes has rightly been given the credit for transforming their season since his arrival in January but this demolition of a hapless Bournemouth team sinking fast towards relegation was driven by the brilliance of Mason Greenwood.
Mason Greenwood scored a double as Manchester United ran out comfortable 5-2 winners over Bournemouth at Old Trafford
The United wonderkid has impressed this season and added to his tally with two sensational strikes against the strugglers
Bruno Fernandes was also on target for the top four-chasing hosts to end Bournemouth’s hopes of a stirring comeback
Manchester United (4-2-3-1): De Gea 4; Wan-Bissaka 6, Lindelof 6 (Bailly 46 5), Maguire 5, Shaw 6; Pogba 6, Matic 5 (Fred 66 6); Greenwood 8 (James 74 6), Bruno Fernandes 8, Rashford 8 (Ighalo 80 6); Martial 8 (Mata 80 6).
Substitutes not used: Andreas Pereira, Romero, McTominay, Williams.
Bournemouth (4-4-2): Ramsdale 6; Smith 5 (Stacey 77 6), Ake 6, Kelly 5, Rico 5; Brooks 5, Lewis Cook 6 (Harry Wilson 66), Lerma 5, Stanislas 7 (Gosling 66 5); King 6, Solanke 5 (Billing 66 5).
Substitutes not used: Boruc, Surman
Referee: Mike Dean 6
Man of the Match: Greenwood
Greenwood is only 18 but he is on the verge of eclipsing Wayne Rooney’s record for the most league goals scored by any player under the age of 19 in a season. Rooney scored nine for Everton in 2003-04. Greenwood’s brace against Eddie Howe’s side took his league tally to eight.
It was the way he scored them, too. One with his right foot, one with his left. Both brilliant, spectacular finishes. It feels as if the world is at both his feet. Marcus Rashford scored his 20th goal of the season with a penalty. Anthony Martial curled in a beauty, too. United have now gone 16 games without defeat and even if the top honours have slipped out of reach, optimism has not.
United are still a long way behind Liverpool and Manchester City but after one false dawn at the start of the reign of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, they finally appear to be on the right track now. They are, at least, moving beyond the point of mourning for what they have lost. Now they can dream of what may be to come.
United should have taken the lead after 10 minutes. Rashford received the ball on the left hand touchline deep in his own half and drove a sumptuous long pass inside Lloyd Kelly and into the path of Fernandes. Fernandes was clean through on Aaron Ramsdale but instead of taking the ball round the keeper as he rushed out to meet him, he tried to lob the ball over him and it went over the bar.
Fernandes should have scored but it is a measure of his recent excellence that the main emotion surrounding his miss was surprise. Fernandes has been so good since he arrived at United that he has come to be seen as a panacea for all United’s problems. His failure to put the ball past Ramsdale was a rare dip below excellence.
Joshua King netted from the penalty spot after Eric Bailly was penalised for a bizarre handball from sloppy play from United
Anthony Martial scored a superb effort from the edge of the area as United fought back with style against the Cherries
The French striker took aim from 25 yards and watched on as his attempt curled beyond the reach of keeper Aaron Ramsdale
The hosts celebrated after Martial’s stunner and have continued their late-season push for the Champions League places
Five minutes later, United paid for the miss. Junior Stanislas, recalled to the side, drove in a left-footed shot from the edge of the United area that was blocked by Harry Maguire. The ball ricocheted towards the byline and Stanislas retrieved it before it went into touch. Maguire came to close him down but Stanislas slipped the ball between his legs and then drilled it past De Gea at his near post.
It was a clever individual goal but United’s defending was poor. The nutmeg of Maguire will appear on highlights reels for years to come and the way De Gea failed to protect his near post will be used as more evidence that his standing in the game has slipped in the last couple of years.
United pressed for an equaliser immediately. Ramsdale threw himself to his right to beat out a dipping free kick from Rashford and just before half an hour had elapsed, the home side were level. Rashford played the ball in from the right to Fernandes on the edge of the box. Fernandes let the ball run and then slid a pass into the path of Greenwood.
Marcus Rashford edged United in front from the penalty spot after Adam Smith was penalised for handball inside the area
The Manchester United frontman coolly stroked beyond Ramsdale to register his first goal since the top flight’s restart
Referee Mike Dean pointed to the spot and Rashford buried from 12 yards after VAR had briefly checked over the incident
Greenwood has been hugely impressive since the restart and he burnished his reputation here. He took one touch and then lashed a left foot drive across Ramsdale. Ramsdale got a hand to it but could only deflect it into the roof of the net. It made the finish look even more spectacular. It was his 14th goal of the season. He is still only 18.
Three minutes later, United were ahead. Luke Shaw lofted a ball to the back post, Anthony Martial nodded it back across goal and when the ball bounced in the area, it hit Adam Smith on his trailing hand. VAR checked it but for once there was little cause for controversy. It was an easy decision. Rashford took the penalty and sidefooted it home.
Rashford had attracted so many plaudits during the coronavirus crisis for the fund-raising campaign he had launched to provide free school meals that we had almost forgotten he scored goals, too. This was his first since the restart and his 20th of the season. If he hadn’t scored since football’s return, his contributions have been superb. It is not just off the pitch that he has grown in stature.
Greenwood had emphatically fired United level after beating stopper Ramsdale with a powerful finish into the top corner
The youngster picked up the ball inside the area and dispatched beyond the goalkeeper before Smith could get across
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer cut a more relaxed figure inside his technical area after United fought back from behind in the first half
United appeared to have put the game out of reach in first half stoppage time. Fernandes rolled the ball out to Martial, who was standing on the touchline, level with the edge of the Bournemouth area. Martial took a touch, stepped inside his marker and then exploded into space before curling in a delicious shot that kissed the underside of the bar as it eluded the despairing dive of Ramsdale. It was Martial’s 20th goal in 39 games.
Bournemouth nearly pulled a goal back seconds after the interval. De Gea pushed out a shot from Lewis Cook and when the rebound fell to substitute Arnaut Danjuma on the byline, De Gea left his near post open again. Danjuma spotted the chance and tried to squeeze his shot past the goalkeeper but it cannoned off the post and away to safety.
A few minutes later, Bournemouth did drag themselves back into the game. It was another United defensive mix-up. This time, they presented it to Bournemouth out of nothing. Nemanja Matic played what should have been a simple ball back to half time substitute Eric Bailly but it was a loose pass that put Bailly in trouble.
Junior Stanislas stole a shock lead for Bournemouth with a superb solo run from the byline and cheeky strike at the near post
The winger threaded the ball through Harry Maguire’s legs before burying beyond David de Gea from a difficult angle
Bournemouth’s players celebrated edging in front but still face an uphill struggle to remain in the Premier League
Fernandes spurned a guilt-edged chance to hand the hosts the lead but turned away shocked after firing over the crossbar
Bailly tried to control it with his chest but the ball hit him on the shoulder and after long deliberations by VAR, it was decided he was just inside the penalty area. Joshua King took the penalty and clipped it beyond the dive of De Gea.
The goal was only the cue for United to pull further ahead. Greenwood scored again after 54 minutes, this time with his right foot. The strike, though, was just as spectacular as the first, a rising drive from 15 yards out that Ramsdale got a hand to but which was too powerful to keep out. Five minutes later, United got a free kick right on the edge of the Bournemouth box and Fernandes curled it beyond the goalkeeper to put United 5-2 ahead.
United should have had a sixth five minutes from the end when substitute Odion Ighalo wriggled free of his marker and clipped a delicate chip over Ramsdale but it bounced just wide. It didn’t affect the mood. United are resurgent.
The United playmaker was released clean through on goal but could only lob his effort over the top of Ramsdale and off target
Eddie Howe watched on from the sidelines with concern after Bournemouth’s slender lead had been quickly overturned