After restoring some faith in the Old Trafford crowd on Wednesday’s game against Manchester City, Mourinho’s Manchester United faced Burnley at Home in the Premiere League. Under Sean Dyche, or the “Ginger Mourinho”, Burnley have built up a reputation for being an organised and tactically astute side. They had the potential to be the exact side that United did not want to face after a moral boosting victory over the “noisy neighbours”. Anything other than a win would, again, push the narrative of United into a downward spiral, so it was important that Mourinho chose the right team.
The Portuguese manager decided to stick with the central defensive partnership of Rojo and Blind which repelled the lacklustre City attack in the EFL cup. Despite adding so much composure to United’s play, Carrick was dropped in favour of Lingard’s work-rate. Mata took up the central attacking role as well as the captaincy in the absence of Rooney, Smalling and Carrick. Darmian was also given a first start in the Premiere League this season as Valencia had broken his arm.
The Reds played out of their skin. If you thought United’s home performance against Stoke was frustrating for the goals-to-chance ratio, your heart probably did not survive this match. Thirty-seven (37) shots, eleven (11) on target, nineteen (19) corners and seventy-two percent (72) possession. United absolutely dominated the game. What was the score? 0-0. A ridiculous performance from Heaton in between the sticks and Keane and Mee at the centre of defence thwarted the Red Devils from taking more than a point away from the game. The starting eleven played brilliantly, but after hitting the post twice in two minutes of the second half Herrera was dismissed for a second bookable offence and Mata was hauled off for Rooney. In the space of five minutes, United’s two most influential and creative players were taken out of the game and Burnley sat back to defend the aerial balls with relative ease. Whilst all this went on, Mourinho was sent to the stands for vigorously protesting referee Martin Atkinson’s decision to not award Darmian a penalty at the end of the first half. I think you will agree, it was a bit of a shambles.
While the performance of United creatively was brilliant, there is clearly a problem when it comes to goals. Ibrahimović will get the brunt of the stick, but Rooney, Mata and Pogba all wasted good opportunities. Back to the finishing drills for the men in red.
De Gea: 6
Like against City, had almost nothing to do. Made a single save from a shot directed straight at him and his passing from the back was composed.
Darmian: 8Photo: Wikimedia Commons
When news spread that United’s most consistent performer this season, Valencia, had broken his arm, negative murmurs could be heard when fans realised that Darmian would have to deputise. The Italian, who had a poor second half of the previous season and Euros, played one of his best performances in a United shirt since his early golden days. Made a brilliant tackle in the first half to win possession off Arfield but his real presence came in the offensive third of the pitch. Constantly available to play “give and go’s” with one of United’s central midfielders and could (probably should) have won a penalty either side of half time.
Put under a lot of pressure in the first half when Grey capitalised on Blind’s lack of pace. Other than that, was not troubled by any of Burnley’s attacks and was influential in starting moves from the base of the defence. In the dying moments Ibrahimović deflected Blind’s goal-bound shot over the bar.
Like Blind, was never really troubled. Neutralised Grey with his strength and pace and put his body on the line to stop a rare goal-bound shot in the 15th minute.
Put in a brilliant last-man tackle on Grey when the striker was through on goal in the second half, but could have been sent off in the seconds before if Grey had decided to go down. Cleared up well on his side of the pitch but did not give Rashford a huge amount of help when trying to break down Burnley’s compact defence. Had a curling shot from outside the box which flew agonisingly wide in the 87th minute.
The Spaniard had another very good performance, however, it will be overlooked by the fact that he picked up two very unlucky yellow cards. The first was a late sliding challenge with minimal contact in the 32nd while the second was a misfooting which completely missed Marney and yet was punished with a red. Despite that, Herrera won three dribbles, two aerials and a tackle. He also produced one of the finest chances of the game, teeing up Lingard in the 41st minute for a very good header.
One of United’s most dangerous players on the pitch. Won the ball back from Burnley’s non-adventurous midfield with ease and looked lively with the ball at his toes. Took a number of threatening long shots and played a beautiful interchange with Ibrahimović which should have led to a goal. His no-look pass to Darmian at the end of the first half led to the United’s first penalty shout. Towards the end of the game, Pogba drifted out to the left hand side and put three brilliant crosses into the box, one of which Ibrahimović should have buried from two yards out.
Did not look as up to the task of breaking down Burnley as his teammates did. Some poor passes in the first half slowed down attacks and his work-rate was not particularly needed against a Burnley side who were happy to defend deep. Forced Tom Heaton into a fantastic save at the end of the first half from a powerful header but that was the best the youngster could achieve. Substituted for Fellaini in the 71st.
Mata: 9Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Unstoppable from the number 10 position. Played eight (8) key passes and was the orchestrator of all of United’s good attacking play. Set Ibrahimović up numerous times in both halves played a brilliant interchange with the Swede in the 23rd minute. Forced Heaton into a very good save at the start of the second half and hit the post ten minutes later from a beautiful swivel and volley. United fans were rightly bemused when Mourinho decided to substitute his makeshift skipper for Rooney in the second half.
Was not at his influential best on the left side of midfield. Struggled to get past Lowton and Gudmundsson and Shaw did not provide enough attacking ingenuity to help the promising youngster. Put in a dangerous cross before half time and attempted to win the game single-handedly in the second half; his dribble and follow-up shot was deflected wide for a corner. Substituted for Memphis in the final ten minutes.
Whilst the big Swede’s link-up play with Pogba and Mata (twice) was breathtakingly attractive, his job as the central striker is to finish the chances he is presented with. He cannot complain for service, as Mata and Pogba in particular set him up uncountable times. With a total of 12 shots a goal needs to come or the ageing superstar will find himself sitting alongside Rooney on the bench. That being said, Tom Heaton was inspiring against his former club, with his save from Ibrahimović’s scissor volley in the second half being a contender for save of the season so far.
Added lots of running which was necessary for United to make up being a man down. Failed to make any real impact offensively and smashed the ball over the bar in the 92nd minute to summarise United’s day.
Added more aerial ability to United who were pumping balls into the box at will. Won a dangerous free kick in the dying moments which Rooney blazed over when teed up by Blind.
Replaced Rashford and added very little to United’s attacking presence.