BOURNEMOUTH, December 12- Louis van Gaal was left facing growing pressure after Josh King’s goal earned Bournemouth a 2-1 win and condemned Manchester United to a second costly defeat in a week.
Having been forced to defend his record in the face of heavy criticism following his side’s Champions League exit at Wolfsburg, United manager Van Gaal again saw his team undone by alarming defensive lapses.
Goalkeeper David de Gea was at fault for Junior Stanislas’s second-minute opener — a corner that went straight in — while Daley Blind allowed former United youngster King to score after Marouane Fellaini had equalised.
This was only United’s third defeat of the Premier League season, but it meant that they missed out on the chance to improve on fourth place and close the three-point gap on leaders Manchester City.
With Van Gaal already coming under fire over his side’s style of play and the limitations of his squad despite heavy investment in new players, it will have done nothing to strengthen the Dutchman’s position.
For Bournemouth, promoted from the Championship last season, this was another stunning result that came on the back of last weekend’s 1-0 win at Chelsea and moved the south-coast club up to 14th position.
Van Gaal’s efforts to get United’s season back on track were hampered by a number of fresh injuries this week, which, together with Bastian Schweinsteiger’s suspension, left him without nine senior players.
That meant both the visiting full-backs –- Guillermo Varela and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson -– were making their first Premier League starts, while Paddy McNair lined up alongside Blind at the centre of a callow back four.
The new-look line-up was left exposed when Eddie Howe’s side took the lead inside two minutes after a startling error of judgement by the usually dependable De Gea.
Stanislas’s left-wing corner appeared to get caught by the wind, causing it to loop beyond the goalkeeper, whose touch only helped the ball sneak under the bar at the far post.
– Carrick probes –
It was precisely the start Van Gaal did not want and when Bournemouth goalkeeper Artur Boruc highlighted De Gea’s error with two outstanding, one-handed saves in quick succession, the signs were not promising for the visitors.
The Poland international, who had struggled for form earlier this season, produced an excellent reaction save from Fellaini before recovering superbly to beat away Michael Carrick’s header.
United certainly did not help themselves, with Anthony Martial showing signs he is lacking in confidence when he pulled his shot wide after being sent clear by Stanislas’s misdirected back-pass.
But the visitors continued to press forward and were rewarded when Fellaini produced an excellent, improvised finish in the 24th minute.
Following up after Memphis Depay’s shot had been parried by Boruc, the Belgium international forced the ball home, recovering well after initially falling to his knees in the scramble to reach the ball.
The move had been started by Carrick and Bournemouth’s failure to close down the midfielder meant the England international’s long balls behind the home defence repeatedly caused problems for Howe’s men.
But Bournemouth remained on level terms until the break and demonstrated more energy and purpose after the restart before once again exposing United’s fragile defence when King struck in the 54th minute.
Simon Francis should never have been allowed to advance 40 yards before forcing a save from De Gea, but United’s defending from the resulting corner was even worse.
This time it was Blind who was at fault, allowing King to meet Matt Ritchie’s low cross with a carefully controlled shot through a crowded six-yard box.
This time United had no response and had Bournemouth substitute Glenn Murray not spurned two good late chances, the scoreline would have been even more embarrassing for Van Gaal and his players.