Belfast Telegraph

Manchester United will keep fighting for Premier League title, says Jose Mourinho as Lukaku nets winner

Man Utd 1-0 Bournemouth

By Simon Peach

Romelu Lukaku got a much-needed goal as Manchester United moved on from their derby defeat by beating Bournemouth.

Runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City brought an untimely end to United's club record-equalling 40-match unbeaten home run on Sunday when Pep Guardiola's men opened up an 11-point cushion over their second-place rivals.

Jose Mourinho's Reds rallied after that potentially season-defining defeat by securing a hard-fought 1-0 win at home through Lukaku's first-half header.

It was just the Belgium striker's third goal in 15 matches - a poor run that has led the summer signing to come under scrutiny, especially in the wake of Sunday's derby defeat.

Lukaku played an unwitting role in both of City's goals and missed a great chance to level, yet there was no sign of relief after hushing the naysayers with a fine header to open the scoring.

The striker had been guilty of a poor challenge on Bournemouth's Nathan Ake by that point but produced a decent overall display, providing a second-half cross that Anthony Martial somehow failed to convert before Marcus Rashford hit the crossbar.

United boss Jose Mourinho said: "I am pleased with the three points, it was difficult match. They had one more day's rest than us, they were fresher than us and mentally fresher because a big match takes more from our players.

"We had chances, Martial missed a good chance, Rashford could have had an astonishing effort, and in the last 15 they pushed us.

"There was fatigue, yes, but hangover from the derby - no. The game was a big one, and a defeat does not help in your recovery - victories help, defeats don't. They were difficult opponents and difficult conditions. If we had scored the second it would have been a calm night for us."

When asked if the title race is over, Mourinho added: "I said we play match after match and the next we have to try to win, we have a difficult one at West Brom and we try match after match."

David de Gea needed to produce some fine saves to prevent Eddie Howe's Cherries from ending a promising display with a positive result as United held out for a solid, if unconvincing, win.

The atmosphere started with the hosts struggling to give the Old Trafford faithful anything to cheer about during a bright Bournemouth start.

The returning Phil Jones had to produce some impressive last-ditch blocks, but Charlie Daniels was afforded space to gallop through and unleash a drive bound for the bottom corner until De Gea intervened.

Ryan Fraser's cross was the next for the defence to deal with, Dan Gosling then skipping past Luke Shaw to sting De Gea's palms.

United belatedly jolted into life midway through the opening period, netting with their first shot on target.

Shortly after somehow avoiding action from referee Graham Scott for a clumsy challenge on Ake, Lukaku showed strength and poise to meet a Juan Mata cross with a header that flew into the top right-hand corner.

Shaw almost forced an own goal as United pushed for a second, but De Gea had to deny a deflected Junior Stanislas strike and Ryan Fraser cross shot before the break.

Mata and Jesse Lingard had attempts when play resumed for the second half, and Martial was guilty of a shocking miss.

Rashford sent a thundering 20-yard effort off the underside of the crossbar but United were now struggling for fluency.

Substitutes Jermain Defoe and Lewis Cook saw fizzing efforts denied by De Gea but there was to be no late fireworks.

MAN UTD: De Gea, Valencia, Smalling, Jones, Shaw (Young 83), McTominay, Matic, Mata, Lingard (Herrera 71), Martial (Rashford 66), Lukaku.

Subs not used: Lindelof, Ibrahimovic, Blind, Romero.

BOURNEMOUTH: Begovic, A Smith, Francis, Ake, Daniels, Stanislas (Defoe 71), Gosling (L Cook 77), Arter, Fraser, King, Wilson (Afobe 71). Subs not used: Boruc, S Cook, Surman, Ibe.

Man of the match: De Gea

Match rating: 6/10

Referee: Graham Scott

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