Casemiro scored his first goal at Old Trafford to put United ahead in the first half before Luke Shaw finished off a move he started to make it 2-0 shortly after half-time. Marcus Rashford got a third late on to make it six straight wins for Man United in all competitive matches.
With the result, Man United move into third while Bournemouth sit at 15th on the Premier League table.
1. Are Man United quietly putting together a title challenge?
The consensus is that if manager Erik ten Hag can get United into the top four and back into the Champions League then it would represent a good return from his first season in charge. But maybe — just maybe — he’s thinking bigger.
Arsenal and Manchester City are the favourites to win the Premier League title — and rightly so — but United have now won their last six games in all competitions and are on a run of one loss in their last 16 games.
Tuesday’s victory over Bournemouth put Ten Hag’s team on 35 points, level with Newcastle in a tie for third place with a game in hand.
There are plenty of reasons why United won’t win the league — they could do with a striker in the January transfer window and the 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa in early November is a recent reminder that they are still capable of producing a horror performance.
But there are also some compelling reasons why they might be able to challenge the leaders in the second half of the season. In Raphael Varane, Lisandro Martinez and Casemiro, they have three of the best defensive players in the league. The squad is, for now, also relatively healthy, and Rashford is in form after scoring in four games in a row.
At the very least, Ten Hag has given United fans reason to think a title charge between now and May is possible.
2. Casemiro is already Ten Hag’s most important player
Varane, Martinez and Christian Eriksen are having good seasons at Old Trafford — but there is no one more important to United than Casemiro. It took a while for the Brazilian to win a place in the team after his summer move from Real Madrid, but now he’s the first name on the team sheet.
He took his goal against Bournemouth with such ease that you could be forgiven for thinking it was a simple chance — but it showed the 30-year-old’s quality that he was able to guide Eriksen’s free kick into the net with the side of his foot.
Casemiro did the rest of his job with quiet efficiency too — mopping up in front of the back four, winning the ball back and passing it on to players in front of him.
Asked recently why he thought Real Madrid had been willing to let Casemiro leave in the summer, Ten Hag could only smile and reply “I’m glad they did.”
In the 16 games Casemiro has started this season, United have kept 10 clean sheets. There remains a debate about whether Ten Hag has enough goals in his squad following Cristiano Ronaldo‘s departure, but they are in safe hands at the back.
3. Bournemouth’s O’Neil learns it’s tough at the top
Bournemouth won their last two games before the World Cup break by an aggregate score of 7-1, and two weeks later Gary O’Neil signed an 18-month deal to become their permanent manager. But since the restart, Bournemouth have played four, lost four, conceded eight and scored none.
If he didn’t know already, O’Neil is finding out just how tough football management can be. The former Portsmouth and West Ham midfielder only needs to keep Bournemouth up this season, but that’s easier said than done.
Defeat at Old Trafford leaves Bournemouth 15th in the table, but only two points above the relegation places as teams below like Nottingham Forest and Wolves are starting to pick up points.
O’Neil, a debut manager, can thank Frank Lampard — whose Everton team lost 4-1 at home to Brighton on Tuesday — for keeping the spotlight off him for now. But if results don’t turn around soon, then the cut-throat nature of the Premier League means it won’t be long before he starts to come under pressure.
Bournemouth’s home game against Forest on Jan. 21 could be pivotal in deciding which league they are playing in next season.
Man United: David De Gea 7, Aaron Wan-Bissaka 6, Luke Shaw 8, Victor Lindelof 7, Harry Maguire 7, Casemiro 8, Christian Eriksen 7, Donny van de Beek 6, Brun Fernandes 6, Marcus Rashford 6, Anthony Martial 6.
Subs: Scott McTominay 6, Fred 6, Diogo Dalot 6, Anthony Elanga 6., Lisandro Martinez 6.
Bournemouth: Mark Travers 6, Adam Smith 5, Chris Mepham 6, Lloyd Kelly 6, Marcos Senesi 5, Lewis Cook 6, Jefferson Lerma 5, Jaidon Anthony 6, Philip Billing 5, Ryan Christie 6, Dominic Solanke 5.
Subs: Jack Stacey 6, Siriki Dembele 6, Kieffer Moore 6, Joe Rothwell 6.
Best and worst performers
BEST: Casemiro, Manchester United
He was run close by Shaw but the Brazilian was impressive in midfield and took his goal beautifully.
WORST: Dominic Solanke, AFC Bournemouth
Completely lost Casemiro for United’s first goal and didn’t impact the game at the other end.
Highlights and notable moments
In the 23rd minute, Casemiro scored his first goal at Old Trafford since joining Manchester United, his second overall for the club.
Midfielder Christian Eriksen sent a long free kick into the box, which Casemiro ran onto and coolly knocked in.
Casemiro bags his first goal at Old Trafford for @ManUtd! 🇧🇷
— Premier League USA (@PLinUSA) January 3, 2023
Shortly after the break, Man United doubled their lead.
Luke Shaw found the finish on a well-worked team goal with touches from Bruno Fernandes and Alejandro Garnacho before the goal.
They don’t call him Luke Shawberto for nothing. 🤯
— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) January 3, 2023
Marcus Rashford added a third for Manchester United late, and it was a comfortable victory for the home side.
After the match: What the players and managers said
Man United manager Erik ten Hag: “Today it was not our best game. We have to be honest, we didn’t play that smart as a team. We made great goals, but at times we were quite lucky, and some great saves from David [de Gea]. We could have been smarter as a team.”
Ten Hag: “We have to go from game-to-game. The next game is a cup one, but we want to win every game. That has to be the approach. We don’t want to look any further — focus on that, it will be a tough game.”
Man United full-back Luke Shaw: “The strides we are taking are going in the right direction that we want. There is still a lot to improve on but things are looking really good and positive. We feel like the belief and confidence is back, and you can feel it around the place, not just with the players and the staff but you can feel it in the stadium and around the fans. Hopefully they are enjoying it at the moment but I feel there is a lot more to come and hopefully we can keep putting smiles on people’s faces.”
Bournemouth manager Gary O’Neil: “It wasn’t a 3-0 game. I think we had maybe six or seven chances but obviously Manchester United had some as well. We need to be sure that we produce that every week.”
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)
Casemiro scored his second goal with Manchester United after 22 games. With Real Madrid, he did not score his first goal in any competition until his 50th game.
Marcus Rashford has scored in six straight games played at Old Trafford (one each since Oct. 27, 2022). He had just five goals in his previous 24 games played at Old Trafford dating to May 18, 2021.
Manchester United: The Red Devils have a quick turnaround to Friday’s FA Cup action when they host Everton on Jan. 6 (stream live on ESPN+ at 3 p.m. ET). Then they stay put and host Charlton Athletic on Jan. 10 in the Premier League.
AFC Bournemouth: The Cherries will shift focus to the FA Cup when they host Burnley on Saturday, Jan. 7 (stream live on ESPN+ at 10 a.m. ET). Then they head to Brentford for Premier League action on Saturday, Jan. 14.