Manchester United have beaten Burnley 2-0 and have turned the corner and are back in the title race. Okay, let us not get ahead of ourselves here. It was just Burnley, wasn’t it? Well, Burnley or not, it was a result that Manchester United badly needed. Jose Mourinho motivated his troops to forget about the 3-0 defeat against Spurs and produce an amazing performance at Turf Moor.
David De Gea
Antonio Valencia, Chris Smalling, Victor Lindelöf, Luke Shaw
Nemanja Matic, Marouane Fellaini, Paul Pogba,
Jesse Lingard, Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez
De Gea got his first clean sheet of the season at Turf Moor with an authoritative performance. He dealt very well with the aerial balls and crosses put in by Burnley. At the end he made a smart save off Sam Voakes’ header to keep the scoreline at 2-0.
This was Valencia’s second match of the season and he didn’t look at his best. He was solid in defense but didn’t make those overlapping runs to provide crosses in the box.
After a terrible second half against Spurs, Smalling was back to his no-nonsense defending. He dealt with the long balls very well and kept the likes of Woods and Vydra at bay.
Lindelof was appalling at Amex Stadium and very nervous when he came on against Spurs at Old Trafford. But he delivered an excellent performance at Turf Moor. He was great with his feet and dealt very well with the incoming crosses into the box.
Manchester United’s player of the month for August is in no mood to give away the prize away to any other player. He was as good at Burnley as he has been over the past three weeks. He provided width to United’s attacks and was heavily involved in both the goals. These four brilliant performances have impressed Gareth Southgate who has called him for the English duty in the upcoming international break.
Fellaini gets a lot of stick from United fans but credit should be given where its due. It was a Marouane masterclass from the Belgian at the center of the park. Surprisingly, he was deployed as a central defensive midfielder to protect the duo of Smalling and Lindelof and he excelled at the job. He nullified the aerial threat of Burnley, both from open play and set pieces. Perhaps the decision to give him a new deal at the end of last season wasn’t such a bad one at all.
The Serb, who usually plays as the holding midfielder, was deployed in a position where he had more freedom to venture forward. He was there to recover the ball and keep it ticking for his attacking players.
Paul Pogba ran the midfield for United. His long balls, his quick one-twos, his through ball, everything clicked perfectly. Well, almost. He did take a penalty and missed it. But that happens to the best of players and Mourinho later said in the post-match press conference that he has no issues with Paul taking the penalties again.
The Chilean’s performance against Burnley was easily his best of the season so far. Right from the very first minute, he was up for the challenge and was involved heavily in the first half. He delivered an exquisite cross from the left-hand channel, right on the spot for Lukaku to head home. He was subbed off at the hour mark as it was his first start after the injury.
Lingard was lively, right from the beginning. He almost curled it in early in the first half and came close again in the second half. It was a performance full of grit and determination that could have led to at least a goal on any other day.
Lukaku was at his scintillating best and this time, unlike the Spurs game, had two goals to his name to show for his hard work. Two well-taken goals in the first half were enough to give United the breathing space. Although he should have had his first hattrick in United colors as he missed an easy chance in the second half when he had rounded off Joe Hart but took too much time to shoot and allowed Ben Mee to knick the ball away.