Romelu Lukaku eased concerns about his goalscoring form with the winner as Manchester United bounced back from derby day disappointment by edging Bournemouth 1-0 at a sodden Old Trafford.
Belgium international Lukaku hit the ground running with seven goals in as many Premier League appearances following his £75million move from Everton, but a run of one in nine led to criticism and the resurfacing of questions over his ability to score against big clubs.
That scrutiny intensified after the striker's failure to clear from set-pieces led to David Silva and Nicolas Otamendi scoring in Manchester City's 2-1 victory over United on Sunday, a result that saw Jose Mourinho's side fall 11 points behind the league leaders, and he responded by finding the net against Bournemouth.
Lukaku headed a delivery from Juan Mata - in as one of four changes for the Red Devils - beyond Asmir Begovic, though his muted celebration suggests the relief gained from returning to the scoreboard was scant for the 24-year-old.
Once more United had David de Gea to thank for keeping them on top, the Spain goalkeeper denying Charlie Daniels and Ryan Fraser as Eddie Howe's side proved dangerous on the break in the first half.
However, the visitors' intensity dropped in the second period and, despite Anthony Martial blazing over from six yards and his replacement Marcus Rashford hitting the crossbar, United held on for a win that restores their three-point advantage over third-place Chelsea and keeps pace with City - 4-0 winners over Swansea City earlier on Wednesday.
Mourinho wrote in his matchday programme notes that United must not dwell on being denied a "clear penalty" in their defeat to City – which descended into a mass post-match altercation in the tunnel about which the FA has requested more information – and Jesse Lingard tried to get the home fans cheering again in the opening minute, but his ambitious overhead kick was nowhere near the target.
The hosts enjoyed the majority of possession but looked vulnerable to Bournemouth's counter-attacks, Daniels and Dan Gosling forcing saves from De Gea within two minutes of each other.
But Lukaku ensured it was United who struck first, rising above Nathan Ake at the back post to head Mata's cross into the top-right corner, though Howe may have complaints about Martial appearing to catch Adam Smith with his arm in the build-up.
Lukaku was booked for a late challenge on Harry Arter for which the midfielder required treatment, and in the time added on as a result Fraser almost caught De Gea, who reacted well to stop Junior Stanislas' deflected strike in the 30th minute, out from an acute angle.
United appeared to have more of a grip on the game after the restart, but Martial wasted a great chance to put it to bed just before the hour mark.
Lukaku's attempt to dink a shot from the left of the box beyond the onrushing Begovic was inadvertently deflected to the France striker's feet by the keeper, but he contrived to fire over a gaping goal from six yards.
Rashford replaced Martial in the 66th minute and he saw a thunderous attempt from just outside the box crash back off the underside of the bar soon after.
Jermain Defoe was dropped despite scoring twice in a 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace at the weekend and, after he replaced Stanislas with 19 minutes remaining, De Gea was required to keep out the England striker and a stoppage-time effort from Fraser to ensure United took maximum points.
Key Opta Facts:
- Manchester United have won nine of their last 10 Premier League games at Old Trafford (L1), keeping a clean sheet in eight of these victories.
- Following their promotion in 2015, Bournemouth have taken just 13 points from a possible 87 against the "top six" teams in the Premier League (29 games).
- Bournemouth had five more shots on target than the home side in this game - the last opposition side to have more in a Premier League game at Old Trafford was Liverpool in March 2014 (six more).
- Since the start of 2016-17, Romelu Lukaku has scored 30 goals in 38 Premier League appearances versus "non-big-six" sides.
- The Belgian has scored six goals in five appearances against Bournemouth in the Premier League, with five of those coming in home games.
- Luke Shaw made his first appearance in the Premier League this season, although he hasn’t completed 90 minutes in the competition since October 2016 (0-0 v Burnley).
|Nadal in control, as Djokovic, Nishikori exit in Barcelona|
|Robben injured in Bayern v Madrid Champions League semi-final|
|Icardi will wait for World Cup dream|
|Arthur hopes Smith, Warner and Bancroft can play county cricket|
|Dhoni and Rayudu star as Super Kings down RCB in thriller|
|NFL Draft 2018: Five overrated prospects|
|Oxlade-Chamberlain ´absolutely devastated´ by knee injury|
|NFL Draft 2018: Five potential first-round surprises|
|Simeone hails Wenger and distances himself from Arsenal switch|
|Madrid bench Benzema and Bale as James starts for Bayern|
|NFL Draft 2018: Teams with most riding on draft|
|Salah used to have problems in front of goal, says former Basel team-mate Sommer|
|Oxlade-Chamberlain ruled out of World Cup|
|Arsenal´s Bellerin slams Daily Mail as ´click baiters´|
|Rodgers and Paul to take NFL-NBA battle to the golf course|
|Gurley, Elliott & Fournette - The top-10 running backs of the last 10 years|
|I truly could have shot 59 - Spieth reflects on Augusta charge|
|Bruno Mars, Britney Spears to perform at US GP|
|Mourinho suggests United were ´not prepared to win´ before his arrival|
|Wolves in the clear over Mendes link-up|
|Salzburg first, history later for Garcia and Marseille|
|Nadal overcomes plucky Carballes Baena to make more clay history|
|Tennis´ governing bodies acknowledge ´vulnerabilities´ after independent integrity review|
|Leeds owner defends controversial Myanmar tour|
|ICC apologises, launches investigation into controversial tweet|
|Moeen: England should have dropped me sooner|
|Henderson: Injured fan´s recovery is the only result that matters|
|Ronaldo sends signed shirt to Manchester United star Rashford|
|Independent review says tennis faces ´serious integrity problem´ with betting|
|Djokovic stunned by Klizan in Barcelona|
|This group deserves something special – Wenger wants to exit on a high|
|North to return to Wales with Ospreys|
|Vieira ´ready for Europe´ amid reported Arsenal interest|
|Wenger focused on Arsenal despite desire to keep working elsewhere|
|Mourinho has made me a better person, says McTominay|
|Gerard sacked as Barca B coach after woeful winless run|
|Sensational Storm demolish Warriors, Dragons win again|
|Bayern links ´an honour´ for Madrid man Bale|
|F1 Raceweek: Vettel closing in on milestone - Azerbaijan GP in numbers|
|It is wide open - Wozniacki hopeful over Roland Garros chances|
|Roma ashamed by Liverpool fan attack|
|Wade, Ginobili will not be rushed over retirement decisions|
|UEFA ´shocked by vile attack´ on Liverpool fan|
|Mayfield´s Big 12 dominance & Jackson the dual threat - The 2018 Quarterback class in Opta numbers|
|Campbell tips Vieira and Bergkamp to replace Wenger|
|Courtois to sue former Belgium coach Wilmots|
|Heavyweights Ronaldo and Lewandowski go head to head – Champions League in Opta numbers|
|Spurs, Heat eliminated as Celtics go up 3-2|
|Angels overcome Ohtani´s so-so outing to win series over Astros|
|Red Bull want Ricciardo decision by August|
|Rangers injuries piling up as Beltre leaves with hamstring issue|
|A´s closer Treinen exits after being hit by comebacker|
|Copa Libertadores Review: Gabriel leads Santos, Atletico cruise|
|He decides the biggest moments – Wijnaldum hails Salah|
|Finau ready to compete after freak ankle injury at Masters|
|Roma have some hope, says Monchi|
|Westbrook fined $10,000 for altercation with Gobert|
|Messi? Ronaldo? Salah is world´s best player – Gerrard|
|Liverpool are not Barcelona – Klopp cautious of Roma comeback|
|Liverpool supporter in ´critical condition´ after fan clashes|
|Gronkowski commits to 2018 season with Patriots|
|F1 Raceweek: Title race to heat up at venue of Vettel-Hamilton flashpoint|
|It´s all-inclusive football with Liverpool! - Klopp pleased despite Roma recovery|
|Montella to remain Sevilla coach until end of season|
|Di Francesco: Roma gave up – but if you don´t believe in a comeback, stay at home|
|Klopp accepts Salah substitution sparked Roma fightback|
|Oxlade-Chamberlain may miss World Cup after suffering ´a really bad injury´|
|De Rossi blames long balls for Roma ´blackout´ at Anfield|
|Trump happy to fly under the radar at World Championship|
|Late Liverpool lapses sour stunning Salah show|