Paul Pogba, Man United rampant again as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer continues to work wonders
MANCHESTER, England -- Three points from Old Trafford on Manchester United's 4-1 win over Bournemouth in the Premier League on Sunday
1. Solskjaer making a case to be permanent boss
Before United's victory over Bournemouth, only Sir Matt Busby and Jose Mourinho had won their first three league games as Manchester United manager. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, caretaker until the end of the season, is now part of that exclusive club.
It is still very early -- he has not yet been in the job a full two weeks -- but with every step forward it becomes easier to see why the Norwegian should get the gig on a permanent basis.
United say they will continue their search regardless of what happens on the pitch, but make no mistake: Solskjaer wants this job and he is making a good fist of showing everyone why he should be considered a serious contender.
The trip to Tottenham in two weeks, Liverpool's visit to Old Trafford at the end of February and the Champions League tie with Paris Saint-Germain are a better measure of his credentials than a game against a Bournemouth side struggling for form. But he can only beat what is put in front of him, and Eddie Howe's team were cast aside just like Cardiff and Huddersfield before them.
United now have 12 goals in three games. Mourinho's stodgy style of football was one of the reasons he is no longer on the touchline, and Solskjaer has turned it around very quickly. The table looks a lot healthier, too, and United are now just three points behind Arsenal. A top-four finish is not out of the question.
Thanks to a second brace in two games from Paul Pogba and another goal from Marcus Rashford, who was impressive throughout, United scored three times before half-time, just as they had done in Solskjaer's first game at Cardiff.
Nathan Ake headed in just before the break to pull one back for the Cherries, but Romelu Lukaku came off the bench to score his first goal in almost a month to make it 4-1.
Eric Bailly was shown a straight red card for a reckless challenge on Ryan Fraser 10 minutes from time, but Solskjaer's honeymoon was never in danger of being cut short.
2 .Pogba a new man sans Mourinho
It sounds simple enough, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's tactic of getting Paul Pogba closer to the opposition goal is getting the best out of the Frenchman. He scored twice for the second game in a row -- he managed only one league double under Mourinho -- and both came about because he was allowed, or at least felt he was allowed, to run into Bournemouth's penalty area.
The first was a tap-in from a yard. The second was a header from not much farther out. Often under Mourinho, Pogba's attacking output was limited to long, raking passes from deep in midfield or speculative efforts from outside the box. He can, of course, do both of those things, but he also has a knack of timing his runs to create chances for himself. Only, though, if he is allowed the freedom to do it.
He could work harder off the ball and track back with more intent when he loses it, but he is primarily an attacking midfielder, and you can only get the best out of him when he is told to attack first and defend second. Mourinho's priorities and orders were very different.
Late in the game Pogba was in perfect position to pick up the ball and clip a pass over the top for Romelu Lukaku to score the fourth, and he almost completed his hat trick when a 20-yard laser smacked against the post after a fingertip save by Asmir Begovic. His renaissance goes on.
3. Bournemouth on the slide due to dodgy defence
Bournemouth were fantastic against United at Dean Court in November and deserved more than to be beaten by a Rashford goal in stoppage time. But they have struggled since and turned up at Old Trafford having won just two of their last nine games.
Sunday's loss was their eighth in their last 10 league games and it was also their record fifth successive away defeat in the Premier League. Even if their poor run carries on, there is little chance of them ending up in a relegation battle, but their season is in danger of running out of steam.
Howe will be concerned that his team are conceding too many goals. They have kept just one clean sheet in their last 12 games -- a run dating back to Oct. 27 -- and the 37 they have shipped in 20 games this season is too many for a side hoping for a top-10 finish.
Any chance of a result against United ended when Pogba scored the first goal after just five minutes. Marcus Rashford's skill in beating Ake and Diego Rico was impressive, but Howe will wonder how the England forward created a chance when he received the ball on the touchline with his back to goal.