Manchester United lost in the Premier League for the first time since October on Saturday, falling 2-1 to newly promoted Bournemouth.
[ RECAP: Bournemouth 1-2 Man United ]
While United still sits fourth on the table, the Red Devils are now winless in five matches across all competitions. After being bounced from the Champions League and now losing to a club in its first year in the Premier League, it has been a tough week for Manchester United.
Here’s three things we learned on the South Coast.
Makeshift back-line exposed
That was Manchester United’s starting defense against Bournemouth, as injuries forced Louis Van Gaal to select a makeshift back-line at the Vitality Stadium. Varela and Borthwick-Jackson were both making their first-ever Premier League starts, while McNair was making just his second league start of the season.
The inexperience showed, as United was exposed by the Bournemouth attack. The likes of Joshua King and Junior Stanislas constantly sliced right through the back-line, as the defense was often caught out of position, leaving David De Gea out to dry. Even the 32-year-old Glenn Murray found himself running in free behind the defense, something we haven’t seen since his days in the Championship. During the halftime breakdown, Robbie Earle said United looked like an under-21 side, and that was a very fair assessment of their play. A poor performance from a side that came into the match with the best defensive record in the Premier League.
Van Gaal’s tactics questioned once again
While United was extremely depleted by injuries, Louis van Gaal’s in-game decisions must still be questioned. Down a goal, United showed little desire to move forward and were thoroughly outplayed by Bournemouth for most of the second half. While Van Gaal is not a vocal manager on the touchline, at some point he has to get up from his seat and will his team forward. Eddie Howe‘s Bournemouth side has no real business beating a club like Manchester United, yet Howe was active the entire match, directing his side and pushing them to keep competing. While Van Gaal showed little heart on the sideline, his team showed little heart on the pitch.
For the second straight match with United in need of a goal, LVG chose to bring on the young and inexperienced Nick Powell over Ashley Young. There may be something going on behind the scenes that is keeping Young from playing, but in a situation like today, he surely gives United a better chance of finding an equalizer, a seasoned veteran with good pace and big-match experience. To top it off, in the 91st minute with one final push left to find an equalizer, LVG decided to put on Phil Jones, a center-back.
Fellaini taking advantage of his opportunity
One of the few bright spots for Manchester United today was the play of Marouane Fellaini. With the suspension of Bastian Schweinsteiger and fitness issues for Morgan Schneiderlin, the big Belgian has started the past three matches for United and has put in solid performances.
Not only did Fellaini score United’s only goal against Bournemouth, but he also looked their most dangerous man on the attack. Every time the Red Devils moved forward and got the ball in the attacking third, Fellaini was heavily involved and threatened to score. I’m not sure that’s how things were supposed to play out under Louis van Gaal’s gameplan, but Fellaini often looked like the only player who actually cared about getting a result, showing some much needed effort and emotion.