Paul Pogba scored twice in consecutive matches as Manchester United thrashed Bournemouth 4-1 to make it three wins in three matches for interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Marcus Rashford, who left the Bournemouth defence in tatters with his skill and pace, scored the third goal while substitute Romelu Lukaku scored the final goal after Nathaniel Ake had pulled back at the end of the goal-flooded first half.
The victory kept United just eight points off Chelsea at the fourth place. They are on 35 points after 20 games, three behind Arsenal on fifth. Bournemouth, who had started the season with a bang, have now lost eight of their last 10 league matches. They have 26 from the same number of matches.
Pogba, left out of the starting line-up in Jose Mourinho’s final three matches, has looked a different player under Solskjaer. He had assisted four of the five goals in the Norwegian’s managerial and scored a brace against Huddersfield on Boxing Day. Against Bournemouth, he was once again at his best and struck the opener within five minutes after Rashford had broken away from Ake and Diego Rico to fire in a cross, which the Frenchman slid into the net.
He nearly returned the favour when he headed down a cross but Rashford’s cross ricocheted wide off the target. Goalkeeper Asmir Begovic then had come out of his line to prevent Anthony Martial from getting close to a Nemanja Matic cross.
Under tremendous pressure from constant United attacks, Bournemouth found a little relief 20 minutes later when Jordan Ibe’s low cross tested the home team backline for the first time. Six minutes later, they nearly levelled with an Ake header, which was straight at David de Gea.
On the other side, United and Pogba added second with the World Cup winner rifling home an Ander Herrera cross in the 33rd minute.
Matic, who until Solskjaer arrived was constantly criticised for his lacklustre performances, has looked a different player in the last three matches always looking forward to passing the ball instead of the regular sideways-pass he would always play under Mourinho. And set up Martial for the third goal with a lofted ball, which the Frenchman laid on for Rashford to score.
But for all their attacking improvements, Solskjaer and his coaching staff were still kept waiting for a clean-sheet when Ake headed home a David Brooks corner to end an eventful first half 3-1.
Lukaku, who returned from a two-day compassionate leave, was then brought on for the Englishman in the second half and he required just two minutes to break the deadlock. Lukaku headed down a cross from the back outside the visiting box from which Martial found Pogba, who teed up the Belgian to score on his return.
Pogba nearly had his hat-trick minutes later but was denied by the post before a rash challenge from Eric Bailey on Ryan Fraser left the home side to finish off with 10 men.