Smalling pounced from close range after Ander Herrera’s defence-splitting pass allowed Jesse Lingard to cross. Callum Wilson should have equalised before substitute Lukaku fired the second after Paul Pogba’s driving run.
Manchester United returned to winning ways at Bournemouth as goals from Chris Smalling and Romelu Lukaku strengthened their grip on second place in the Premier League table.
United are four points ahead of third-placed Liverpool with four games left. This was the reaction manager Jose Mourinho demanded after United’s surprise home defeat by bottom club West Bromwich Albion on Sunday, which confirmed Manchester City as champions.
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It was job done as far as Mourinho was concerned, the Portuguese responding to the West Brom defeat by making seven changes at the Vitality Stadium.
With the title gone and patience running thin, Mourinho described this match as an opportunity for players to secure a place in the team to face Tottenham in Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.
Goalkeeper David de Gea, who captained the side, Smalling, Herrera, and Pogba were the only survivors from the weekend as Marouane Fellaini and Matteo Darmian made their first league starts since 30 September and 14 October respectively.
There was also a rare appearance for Luke Shaw, while fellow defender Phil Jones and Anthony Martial made their first league starts for two months. This was far from vintage United and Alexis Sanchez and Nemanja Matic can expect automatic recall this weekend.
Yet it was an improvement on the performance against West Brom, which Mourinho described as “complicated”. In contrast to Sunday, Pogba was solid, if unspectacular, while Herrera’s ball for Lingard to tee up Smalling to slide in for the winner was the pass of the night.
Lingard has a healthy goalscoring record at Wembley and his energetic performance against Bournemouth might earn him a starting place against Spurs. United’s 49th competitive game of the season had an end-of-season feel about it but their goals were well crafted and the points hard earned.
Source: BBC News