Week 35 of the Premier League continues to trot into the weekend with Manchester United moving four points ahead of Liverpool with a comfortable win over Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium.
Jose Mourinho never got to the moon, but some of his players did. With FA Cup semi-final places at stake, the prima donnas slipped out of their spacesuits and into their football boots.
Bournemouth away isn’t like a bank teller facing a man with a stocking on his head, but neither was West Brom at home and look what happened there. Mourinho wanted to rest legs ahead of the weekend tussle with Tottenham, and at the same time, he could feel the smelly breath of the Anfield on his nape.
The only players who kept their places from the weekend were David De Gea (who captained the side), Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera, and Chris Smalling, and it was Smalling who broke the deadlock in the 28th minute.
Jesse Lingard ghosted past the left-hand side of the Bournemouth defence, Ander Herrera found him with a beautiful defence-splitting pass, and Lingard crossed for Smalling to score in his third consecutive away game (he had managed one in his previous 101 appearances).
If anyone is going to play at Wembley it has to be Lingard. The England midfielder has now scored 13 goals and supplied 6 assists, and turns Wembley Stadium into his personal goal of the century catalogue each time he graces the gaff.
The people in the press are calling the United performance ‘not vintage United,’ but I think it was. Sir Alex Ferguson has gone. Jose Mourinho has the baton, and playing boring football but winning seems to be the new ‘vintage.’
United sealed the deal in the 70th minute when Paul Pogba’s driving run and pass found substitute Romelu Lukaku who made no mistake for his 16th goal of the season.
People will praise Eddie Howe when the Cherries compete in the Premier League for a fourth successive season next year, but there is a familiar pattern emerging.
Bournemouth players seem to slip the gear stick down a few notches when they feel like the job’s complete. Yes, Howe maintains his side is not safe yet, but he has a responsibility to say that as the manager of the football club.
The players know they are safe.
The players play like they are safe, and have done for the past few seasons.
Bournemouth have won once in nine games.
United are now four points clear of Liverpool with four games remaining.
Premier League Table
1. Man City – 87
2. Man Utd – 74
3. Liverpool – 70
4. Spurs – 68
5. Chelsea – 60
6. Arsenal – 54
7. Burnley – 52
8. Leicester – 43
9. Everton – 42
10. Newcastle – 41
11. Bournemouth – 38
12. Watford – 37
13. Brighton – 36
14. West Ham – 35
15. Huddersfield – 35
16. Crystal Palace – 34
17. Swansea – 33
18. Southampton – 28
19. Stoke – 28
20. West Brom – 24