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Man of the Match: AFC Bournemouth 1-3 Manchester United – Premier League 2016/17

Manchester United followed up their season-opening win in the Community Shield against Leicester City with another win in their return to Premier League. Away to Bournemouth, United looked fairly comfortable as they finished the game with the scoreline at 3-1. Jose Mourinho made two changes to his starting lineup, with Juan Mata and Ander Herrera coming into the team in place of Michael Carrick and the injured Jesse Lingard, with new signing Paul Pogba unavailable due to a suspension carried over from last season’s Coppa Italia.

United opened the scoring late in an overall quiet first half, as Mata pounced on a mistake from Simon Francis to put the ball in the back of an empty net. United picked up the pace in the second half, and before long doubled the lead as Wayne Rooney headed in a mishit Anthony Martial shot. Zlatan Ibrahimovic added a third with low, long-range strike before Adam Smith pulled one back for the hosts.

United continued the trend from last week’s match with a more cautious approach to the game, leaving attackers unable to truly take the game by the scruff of the neck, with the likes of Mata, Martial, and Rooney looking off despite their contribution to the scoreline. Antonio Valencia was possibly the most impressive in attack, overlapping from right-back and putting in dangerous crosses. Ander Herrera was also very impressive in midfield, causing trouble with his forward passing, evidenced best by his long ball over the top that forced Simon Francis’ error that led to the opener.

But the most impressive aspect of United’s performance, continuing from last week, has to be the defensive partnership of Eric Bailly and Daley Blind. The two compliment each other perfectly, with Bailly being more adventurous and proactive in his tackling, pushing forward and wide to make tackles, Blind was the more composed one, bringing calmness into the defence and was the one anchoring the partnership.

While last week saw Bailly steal the limelight, as he was entrusted with dealing with Jamie Vardy, this week things were more even between the two. Bailly still pulled no punches with his tackling, showing echoes of Nemanja Vidic in the power behind is challenges, as Josh King, who was at the end of a hard, but perfectly timed Bailly challenge, would testify. But this week Blind shone through brighter than he did last.

With Bailly out chasing down attackers, it was Blind’s job to hold down the defence, and he did so magnificently. He showed once again his ability to read the game, holding his lineup until the exact moment he needs to step up to either intercept the ball or to make a tackle. Blind executing the simpler things perfectly was what allowed Bailly to be more aggressive.

Blind didn’t have an entirely perfect game, as he failed to stop Smith from going past him in scoring his goal, but he was given a more important and difficult role than Bailly. He was responsible not only for himself but also for covering his teammate, and he did that job as well as anyone could. And that is why Blind is today’s Man of the Match.

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