Review by Phil Sawyer
On the 12th of December 2009, Eddie Howe’s side were on the wrong end of a 5-0 drubbing at Morecambe, in the Football League’s bottom division. Fast forward six years, and they have just gone toe to toe with Manchester United, 20 time champions, and dispatched Louis Van Gaal’s expensively assembled side, writing yet another chapter in the club’s extraordinary recent history.
In blustery conditions, there was a palpable optimism in the air pre-kick off and it was no surprise to see Bournemouth name an unchanged side following their Stamford Bridge exploits. Eddie Howe could draw confidence from an unfamiliar Manchester United starting line-up, and the intent to expose an inexperienced back line was clear from kick off. It didn’t take long for the approach to bear fruit, with industrious work from Josh King on the left flank eventually leading to a corner, taken by Junior Stanlislas. Hung up on the wind and delivered with no shortage of swing, the cross dropped over the despairing David de Gea to give Bournemouth a second minute lead. This explosive start was indicative of the absorbing game that was to follow.
United pushed hard for an equaliser, perhaps encouraged by Bournemouth’s unfortunate habit this season of conceding shortly after scoring themselves. Minutes after Artur Boruc in the Bournemouth goal pulled off a stunning double save, the pressure eventually told and United scrambled home an equaliser. Bournemouth pressing relaxed in the centre circle for just a few crucial moments, allowing Michael Carrick to release Memphis De Pay with a pass that oozed quality. The original effort was well saved, but rebounded straight to another white shirt leading to a bundled finish by Fellani.
It was a credit to Bournemouth that they refused to allow their heads to drop, and they quickly re-established a foothold in the game. For a 10 minute period after the restart, the home side dominated play and this culminated in a brilliantly worked goal. The Cherries grew in confidence at the start of the second half, with Harry Arter deserving particular credit, dominating central areas with crisp passing and assured tackling. With Manchester United seemingly uninterested in countering with any directness, the Bournemouth defence also began to advance with more confidence, and a marauding run from Simon Francis earned a corner from the right. Eddie Howe’s team regularly practise intricate routines from set pieces, and when Ritchie’s clever low centre was expertly tucked home by Josh King, there was an explosion of noise as the promising young Norwegian struck against one of his former clubs.
United responded in puzzling fashion, withdrawing goal scorer Fellani, who had provided an irritation rather than a constant threat, and they struggled to carve out any clear cut chances of note. It looked more likely to be Bournemouth to score on the break, and Glenn Murray will have been disappointed that he didn’t put away either of his two excellent chances in front of goal. AFCB’s defensive organisation held firm throughout the remainder of the game, and as the atmosphere amongst the home supporters built to a crescendo of noise, the referee’s final whistle eventually blew, the pressure was released and celebrations could begin in earnest.
The songs that rang around Dean Court were sung by fans well aware of the depths from which the club has risen. The question on everybody’s mind after a week like this is – How much higher can we go?
Happy Christmas everybody!
As official sponsor of AFC Bournemouth and Crystal Palace FC, Mansion will be offering unique insights into the team’s games each week, through collaboration with a selection of passionate fan reviewers.