Manchester United strolled past an uninspiring Burnley side on Sunday evening. The Red Devils were in dire need of a response and most importantly, a win. So was Burnley. The Clarets were winless coming into this fixture. But, United displayed their class and went home with the three points, even with a man down.
United started off on the front foot, as they did against Spurs. Jesse Lingard came close to scoring, twice, before Romelu Lukaku scored a towering header to put United into the lead. It was a lead that United deserved, because of their attacking threat and the number of chances that they had created. Sanchez and Lingard were at the heart of everything United did, even the second goal. Lingard’s shot was deflected and Lukaku pounced upon the ball to slot it past Joe Hart, just before the break.
The second half followed the same pattern. United earned a penalty, only for Paul Pogba to miss it. Things got heated up after that, with Marcus Rashford getting sent off after an altercation with ex-red Phil Bardsley. Burnley applied the pressure and came close through Sam Vokes, but didn’t do enough to score even one against David De Gea. United had plenty of chances on the counter too, but Lukaku still couldn’t complete his hattrick.
The Role of Marouanne Fellaini
When the team sheets came in, to everyone’s surprise, Marouanne Fellaini started in place of Fred. Mourinho has always trusted Fellaini, as he gets going when the going gets tough. Fellaini has always been criticised for his lack of technical ability, with fans and pundits alike saying that the Big Belgian isn’t fit to wear the United shirt. But, time and time again, Fellaini has put in match-winning performances, giving it his all for the badge and the manager. Fellaini wasn’t there to dictate tempo or build play from deep. Fellaini’s role was to protect Victor Lindelof and Chris Smalling from Burnley’s long balls to Chris Wood. And he did that to perfection, winning 100% of his tackles, seven aerial duels and made six clearances. As a result, both Lindelof and Smalling looked solid. Lindelof was assured and composed playing out from the back, because of Fellaini’s protection.
Burnley’s adventure in Europe has surely taken a toll on their players. The Clarets did not at all looked energetic and did not seem to have any intention of taking away anything from the game, let alone winning it. Sure, they applied some pressure towards the end, but never looked like scoring. They could have easily lost the game by 5 or 6, had United been efficient and converted their chances. The defence was all over the place, Ben Mee struggled to keep up with Lukaku, Cork and Westwood got dominated in midfield while Jeff Hendrick couldn’t support Wood up top. Dyche’s man left all kinds of spaces in between the lines for the likes of Lingard and Pogba to drift into. The International Break will surely do them good. The Clarets need to come back refreshed and energised and focused on the Premier League following the break. There is a lack of goals and chances created and Dyche has got his hands full.
The importance of Jesse Lingard
Jesse Lingard just might be Manchester United’s most valuable player. The Englishman has gone from being taken as a joke to making United tick in the attack. His relation with Lukaku has been blossoming since last season, his friendship with Pogba always pays dividends on the fields while he is also establishing an on-field connection with Alexis Sanchez. His movement, energy and how he finds pockets of spaces in between the lines is essential for United to break down their opponents. He needed to add goals to his game, and he did that last season. He must prolong his form.
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