Much Improved Man United See Off Spirited Burnley

Ralf Rangnick's men were a world away from their dreary performance against Newcastle
22:47, 30 Dec 2021

Manchester United took a step in the right direction with their 3-1 home win over Burnley. Ralf Rangnick’s side looked much-improved from their dreadful performance at Newcastle United on Monday. Sean Dyche fielded a COVID-depleted line-up, the oldest he has ever named in a Premier League game, but the visitors still put up a spirited display in a riotously entertaining first half.

Chris Wood threatened early, forcing a good save from David De Gea before being flagged offside. Then Cristiano Ronaldo served up one of those rare moments where you remember he’s human, going clean through on goal and lifting his shot over the bar. 

The Portugal international was shaping up for another go when his touch got away from him, and Scott McTominay’s elegant side-foot found its way into Wayne Hennessey’s net. Sean Dyche’s side were unbowed, and continued to fashion opportunities. Aaron Lennon cut inside and directed an inviting cross to the back post, but his teammates did not read his moment of intuition. 

Burnley then fell foul of a defensive mix-up, a moment of confusion involving Matthew Lowton and Dwight McNeil handing the ball to Luke Shaw. The left back found Jadon Sancho out wide, and the former Borussia Dortmund man cut inside and saw his shot deflected off Ben Mee and into the net. The decision was an own goal, but Sancho’s work to engineer it was brilliant.

McTominay fancied his chances again, drawing a spectacular save from Hennessey, deputising for COVID absentee Nick Pope in his first league start. The stopper tipped the ball onto the post, where a waiting Ronaldo side-footed it into an empty net. The critics will call it a tap-in, and in truth it was, but you’ve got to be in the right place at the right time and more often than not Ronaldo is.

Burnley pulled one back before the break, Lennon scoring his first goal in 28 games against Manchester United. The 34-year-old found space in behind Nemanja Matic, and fired his shot past Harry Maguire. The placement was perfect, tucking the ball neatly into the corner of De Gea’s goal. The strike was a fair reflection of the away side’s contribution to the half, with a 3-0 deficit not having told the full story of Burnley’s performance.

The second half saw deputy keeper Hennessey continue to distinguish himself. The Wales international got up brilliantly to intercept a Greenwood curler, before pulling off a superb fingertip save from another McTominay side-foot. The pick of the bunch was a save that technically will not stand, when he blocked an Edinson Cavani strike with his face shortly after the Uruguayan was flagged offside.

Burnley did not carry any of their promising early threat in the second half, and United were able to play in a comfortable manner. Rangnick’s side impressed, particularly after their abject display on Monday against Newcastle. But it must be said Dyche was without a number of his key players due to positive COVID tests. Still, United have ended what has been a strange year in their history on a high. There is work still to do, but tonight at Old Trafford it was a case of ‘job done’.

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