Manchester United bounced back from their surprise home defeat to rock-bottom West Brom with a battling 2-0 win at Bournemouth, as Jose Mourinho made good on his threat to drop those who underperformed on Sunday.
That loss to West Brom handed United's bitter rivals City the Premier League title and Mourinho's side looked eager to put things right at the Vitality Stadium, ultimately cruising to a victory which sees them head into Saturday's FA Cup semi-final clash with Tottenham in confident fashion.
For all of Mourinho's changes, the breakthrough came through Chris Smalling, one of the four players to keep their place in the team, as he was left with an easy finish following good work from Ander Herrera and Jesse Lingard.
Bournemouth were by no means outclassed by their visitors in the first half, though United's improvement from Sunday's West Brom horror show was significant.
Nevertheless, they were fortunate to avoid conceding a penalty early in the second half when Luke Shaw barged Callum Wilson to the ground.
And United went on to capitalise on that let-off, as Romelu Lukaku – a second-half substitute – produced a fine finish to end Bournemouth's hopes of rescuing a late point.
Anthony Martial was one of those to benefit from Mourinho's tinkering and the Frenchman quickly looked to take the initiative, threatening in the third minute as he linked with Paul Pogba and beat Steve Cook, before seeing his cut-back blocked behind by the Bournemouth defender.
United had little difficulty dictating the tempo, though they looked defensively susceptible at times and got lucky in the 11th minute, as Jordon Ibe shot just wide of the bottom-left corner after Wilson had exploited space in the visitors' backline.
At the other end, Asmir Begovic was eventually forced into a first save 28 minutes in – Marcus Rashford drilling at him from a tight angle, winning a corner.
And as a result of pressure from that corner, United broke the deadlock.
Herrera sliced open the Bournemouth defence to find Lingard and he squared across the face of goal for Smalling to tap in.
United exerted pressure further up the pitch upon the restart and kept Bournemouth penned into their own area for periods, but they were lucky to not concede a penalty in the 56th minute.
Josh King played the ball across the face of goal and Wilson looked destined to tap in, only for Shaw – making his first Premier League start since February 3 – to nudge him over and escape punishment.
Mourinho stepped things up soon after by introducing Lukaku for Lingard and the Belgian quickly made an impact, racing on to Pogba's throughball and lifting a fine first-time finish over the approaching Begovic with 20 minutes to go.
Key Opta stats:
- David de Gea has kept more clean sheets in all competitions for Manchester United in 2017-18 than he has in any other season for the club (21).
- Manchester United have won six of their last seven Premier League games (L1), scoring two or more goals in each victory.
- After winning their first Premier League meeting with Man Utd (2-1 in December 2015), Bournemouth have lost four and drawn one of the subsequent five.
- Romelu Lukaku has scored seven goals in his six Premier League appearances against Bournemouth.
- No player has provided more Premier League assists in away games this season than Paul Pogba (seven – level with Christian Eriksen and David Silva).
- Jesse Lingard has been directly involved in 19 goals in all competitions this season (13 goals, 6 assists), one more than he managed in his previous three seasons for Man Utd combined (18).
- Chris Smalling has scored in three consecutive Premier League away appearances, after scoring just once in his previous 101 games.
- Asmir Begovic has kept just one clean sheet in his last 22 Premier League games and none in the last 10.