Manchester United defeated Bournemouth 3-1 in an English Premier League game hastily rearranged because of a bomb scare, sealing fifth place and a spot in the Europa League group stage on Tuesday.
United was never likely to score the 19 goals needed to finish fourth and qualify for the Champions League, so the aim was to get the win to guarantee an automatic spot in the Europa League and take some momentum into the FA Cup final against Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Wayne Rooney scored one goal and played a part in two others. Playing in center midfield, Rooney finished off a well-worked team move in the 43rd minute, for his first goal since Feb. 2, and delivered key passes in the buildup to goals from Marcus Rashford and Ashley Young.
United defender Chris Smalling scored an own goal with virtually the last touch of the game.
Even if United wins the FA Cup, the season will have been a disappointment for the team and its manager Louis van Gaal, whose priority and target was a top-four finish. Van Gaal has one year left on his contract and his future remains uncertain, with United linked with a move for the unemployed Jose Mourinho.
Van Gaal addressed United’s fans after the game, thanking them for their “unconditional support.”
“Now, we want to bring the FA Cup home to you,” Van Gaal shouted. “You deserve it.”
The original game on Sunday was called off after Old Trafford was evacuated because a fake bomb was discovered in the toilets of one of the stands. Police said hours later that the device was left behind by a private company following a security training exercise using search dogs.
It was not only an acutely embarrassing episode for United, it meant the team had to return two days later to play the game — disrupting preparations for the cup final. Van Gaal played a full-strength team, and appeared to avoid any injuries.
It was business as usual outside Old Trafford, with fans met with the same levels of security as previous matches. Security was not oppressive, and the atmosphere was calm.
It was also business as usual on the field for United, at least until Rooney’s goal, with the team’s build-up play ponderous and a crowd that was well short of the 76,635 capacity deprived of any entertainment. United finished its league campaign with 49 goals, a paltry total compared to the ones that United teams under Alex Ferguson used to plunder.
The match had a preseason feel to it. Old Trafford was eerily quiet, save for the chanting of Bournemouth fans who made the 500-mile (800-kilometer) trip at short notice and were given a free bus ride by their club as a gift.
By winning the Premier League title as a 5,000-1 longshot, Leicester delivered arguably the most unlikely storyline in the history of English soccer, but United might have even topped that if they had racked up the club-record 19 goals required to leapfrog Manchester City.
Given that United’s first shot on target came in the 43rd minute for Rooney’s goal, the preposterous scenario was never going to happen.
The opening goal was one of the best seen at Old Trafford all season, with Anthony Martial playing a one-two, racing into the area, and supplying a low cross that was dummied by Rashford and sidefooted home by Rooney.
Rooney was the supplier for the second goal in the 74th, sending a diagonal cross to Antonio Valencia, whose nod-down was met with a fierce low shot into the corner from Rashford.
Rooney then chipped the ball forward to Young, who beat the offside trap and scored with a shot that squirmed past goalkeeper Adam Federici in the 87th.
United’s win took away the potential for having to play in the Europa League’s third qualifying round on July 28.