Martial and Rashford the heroes for two-faced Manchester United

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Marcus Rashford Manchester United 2018-19
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United fell behind at Bournemouth after yet another dismal start but they managed to nick a 2-1 victory thanks to their two young forwards

It is a mark of where Manchester United are right now that they were clinging on for dear life for large periods against Bournemouth on Saturday.

But just when they looked set to roll over and take it, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford combined to deliver them three points they barely deserved.

Having fallen a goal behind early on and shown no signs of reacting, United and Jose Mourinho needed a hero to pull them out of the fire as the likes of Fred, Nemanja Matic and Chris Smalling endured particularly difficult afternoons on the south coast.

Martial was the man to step up late in the first half, and it was Rashford who secured three points right at the death as the visitors snatched a 2-1 win.

For too much of the first half United were simply not at the races. All the pace, all the tempo, all the fight and all the ingenuity was coming from Eddie Howe’s men, and the visitors were so static and leaden-footed it was untrue.

Callum Wilson’s smart finish gave Bournemouth a deserved lead, after Juan Mata had pushed out from a half-cleared corner and was caught well out of position as Lewis Cook’s clever pass played in Junior Stanislas.

The Cherries continued to dominate thereafter, with United far too disjointed on the ball and distinctly reactive off it. Had Ryan Fraser, Wilson and Stanislas done better in good positions, an utterly dreadful United would rightly have been well adrift inside 30 minutes.

As Mourinho admitted afterwards, "At half time I thought I was the luckiest manager in the Premier League to be 1-1 when it could’ve been 5 or 6-2. We wery very lucky because we were very poor. Defensively awful. Absolutely awful."

Paul Pogba Manchester United 2018-19

That they were not was down to nothing more than luck from a United point of view, and Martial was able to level the scores after a neat Alexis Sanchez pull-back in a rare attack at the Bournemouth back line.

It was the Frenchman’s fifth goal in four Premier League fixtures, marking his best run in front of goal since becoming a Red in 2015.

Such a burst of form could hardly have been better timed for Mourinho, with almost everyone else in his squad struggling of late. Given the Portuguese was keen to allow Martial to leave in the summer, he would do well to be humble in the face of the front-man’s current vein of form.

United were much improved after the break, and particularly following the substitutions which saw Rashford and Ander Herrera replace Mata and Fred.

They came closest when Nathan Ake somehow kept out Rashford’s effort after Ashley Young’s free-kick had come back off the woodwork. David Brooks then cleared Paul Pogba’s follow-up off the mark for good measure, but Bournemouth could so easily have been out of sight by the time United had finally got their act together.

Marcus Rashford Manchester United 2018-19

Somehow there was a twist in the tail too, with Rashford keeping his cool to slot home from close range in the 92nd minute to take three points from a Bournemouth side who would have seen such a turnaround unthinkable an hour earlier.

United's resilience has to be commended. No Premier League side has claimed more points (seven) from losing positions so far this season but, win or no win, Mourinho cannot afford for his side to keep turning in performances like this, not least because Martial won’t be able to bail them out every time.

Romelu Lukaku was missing here due to a training-ground injury but he and Alexis Sanchez have both seen their shooting boots desert them so far this term, even if the Chilean turned in an improved display from the centre of attack here.

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It is also worth noting that Rashford's winner was just his second goal this season, and his sixth in 2018.

As such, the boss can’t keep relying on a hit-and-miss front line to undo the damage United are causing themselves elsewhere, and the one constant this season has been the ineffective nature of their play without the ball when opposition teams show the slightest bit of dynamism.

The mini revival continues, but Mourinho would do well not to believe the corner has been turned for good.