The 2015/16 Premier League season is over after Wayne Rooney inspired a comfortable victory for Manchester United against Bournemouth to secure a place in the Europa League Group Stages.
Manchester United finished the strangest of seasons with a comfortable win over Bournemouth last night.
The re-arranged game, after Sunday’s bomb scare, took place in an eerily empty Old Trafford. Not even free admission was enough to attract people into the Theatre of Dreams. It was probably fitting that there were hardly any fans left in the stadium as the United players conducted their annual lap of honour.
Fifth place in the league is not good enough. 19 wins is not good enough. Failure to qualify for the Champions League is not good enough. 10 defeats is not good enough. Scoring only one more goal than Sunderland is not good enough.
You get my point.
Only four days before the F.A Cup Final and nothing to play for except automatic qualification into the group stages of a European tournament nobody cares about. It was surprising to see Louis Van Gaal choose a full strength team.
United needed to score 19 times without reply to qualify for the Champions League. Bournemouth’s end of season form has been dreadful, but not that dreadful.
The first half matched the lack of intensity in the stands. It had all the hallmarks of an end of season dead rubber. Then Anthony Martial, Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford, and Wayne Rooney combined to make it all worth it.
Dele Ali won the Match of the Day Goal of the Season award on Sunday night. If Shearer and co had waited a few days longer, this little beauty would have matched his strike for strike.
Martial scared the life out of the defence from the left-hand side of the box, played a neat one-two with Mata before squaring it across the penalty area. Rashford supplied the dummy, and Rooney was on hand to finish off a sublime move becoming only the second player behind Thierry Henry to score 100 goals at a single ground.
Bournemouth never re-emerged after the break. I don’t think they have done since reaching safety all those months ago. United, on the other hand, turned on the style. And it was England’s Wayne Rooney and Marcus Rashford who shone the brightest.
The more I see Rooney playing in a deeper-lying role, the more I believe he is the key to picking the locks of European nations defences. He had a hand in both second half goals, one for Rashford, and one for Ashley Young, and he is a ‘must start’ for me in the Euro 2016 Finals.
18-year old Rashford showed his qualities once again. He truly is a great footballer with wisdom and a touch beyond his years. His link up play and finishing is sensational to watch. And the more I watch him play, the more I believe he could do a job on the right for England ahead of the injured Danny Welbeck.
And what about Bournemouth?
I would be a worried man if I were Eddie Howe. Bournemouth’s performances of late have been the stuff of relegation. Only Aston Villa have conceded more goals, and they never looked like scoring until a fluke saw Chris Smalling deflect the ball past David De Gea with the last kick of the game.
It was a personal disappointment for the Spanish international. The Man Utd Player of the Year needed to keep a clean sheet to win the Golden Gloves award, and to lose it with the last kick of the game, without having a save to make throughout 93 minutes of play was tough. The award went to Arsenal’s Petr Cech. United only conceded 35 goals all season, and only the Spurs back four can match that rate.
United now face Crystal Palace on Saturday in a bid to salvage something from what must rank as their worse Premier League performance in history; quite ironic when you consider they sacked David Moyes. Van Gaal still insists he is the man, and despite the United fans making their view clear by staying at home, there are some plus points.
They have the best home record in the division. They have the joint best defence. However, championship winning sides have a Jamie Vardy, Sergio Aguero, or Harry Kane, smashing over 20-goals a season, and that, as well as a central midfielder who can pass the ball forward, instead of sideways and backwards, is a must in the close season.
As for the FA Cup, if the United side who competed in the first half show up then Palace have a chance. If the team that showed up in the second half start playing then Alan Pardew’s side don’t have a prayer.
And what about Van Gaal?
I think it’s clear that the majority of the fans would like to see him gone. Manager’s like Jose Mourinho aren’t available for long, and with Paris St. Germain ready to start courting the ‘Special One’ I think the United board will be under intense pressure to make the switch.
It will be a shame.
Like most United fans I would have liked to have seen Van Gaal see out his contract before handing a healthy and fruitful squad over to Ryan Giggs; a young manager who could have taken the club into a new era.
Final Premier League Standings
1st. Leicester – 81 pts.
2nd. Arsenal – 71 pts.
3rd. Spurs – 70 pts.
4th. Man City – 66 pts.
5th. Man Utd – 66 pts.
6th. Southampton – 63 pts.
7th. West Ham – 62 pts.
8th. Liverpool – 60 pts.
9th. Stoke – 51 pts.
10th. Chelsea – 50 pts.
11th. Everton – 47 pts.
12th. Swansea – 47 pts.
13th. Watford – 45 pts.
14th. West Brom – 43 pts.
15th. Crystal Palace – 42 pts.
16th. Bournemouth – 42 pts.
17th. Sunderland – 39 pts.
18th. Newcastle – 37 pts.
19th. Norwich – 34 pts.
20th. Aston Villa – 17 pts.