Manchester United beat Burnley to pile on the pressure on league leaders Manchester City. In a less than convincing performance, a Mason Greenwood brace and a late goal from Edison Cavani were enough to see off the Clarets. So let’s look at five things we learnt from this league encounter.
1. Rashford runs riots against Burnley
There were many doubts surrounding the match fitness of Marcus Rashford. However, there was little surprise when his name was on the starting team sheet. Rashford, 23, has 31 goal contributions in 49 games, the second best tally at the Manchester-based club. He also averages a goal every 181 minutes, in which only Bruno Fernandes and Edison Cavani average a better goal per minutes ratio. Although, Rashford didn’t score in this match, he was a significant threat throughout. The Burnley defence had no answers to the England international’s pace and trickery. Peacock-Farrell made a smart save to deny Rashford in a cagey first half.
Immediately, after the restart the Red Devils looked to Rashford to produce a piece of magic to break the deadlock. United’s number ten effortlessly went past the challenges of the Burnley defenders and played a delightful through ball into the box. Bruno Fernandes cleverly let the ball run into the path of deadly forward Mason Greenwood. Greenwood found the back of the net with ease and the Reds were in front. Just before Rashford was taken off he had a moment of sheer brilliance where he took on Tarkowski and left him for the dead. This epitomised his afternoon, as the Englishman was nothing short of brilliant in this match.
2. Greenwood dents Burnley’s ambitions
Mason Greenwood has had a tough season so far. However, in recent weeks the youngster has shown why there is such excitement surrounding his talent. He has now found the back of the net in five of the last six games and is displaying that deadly touch in front of goal, which was on display when last season resumed after the pandemic.
In this match Greenwood took up many spaces in central areas, but played predominately on the right. In his post-match presser Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said that he thought that at this moment in time, the position on the right-hand side was Mason’s best position. This is because of Englishman preferring to have the ball at his feet and running directly at defenders rather than playing with his back to goal. Manchester United’s number 11 was quiet in the first half and this was mainly because of his lack of service. But, in the second half Greenwood was much more involved and this was due to the introduction of Edison Cavani. United now had more attacking options on the pitch, which gave Mason much more freedom.
Greenwood put the hosts in front not long after half time with a calm finish. Even after Burnley’s equaliser, he began playing with greater confidence and was much more of a threat. Furthermore, like they did against Spurs Pogba and Greenwood combined to give United the lead for the second time in the contest. The forward got on the end of a pass from Pogba and shot from range. The deflected strike found it’s way beyond the Burnley keeper and United were ahead late on. For the third goal Greenwood was provider in a sublime team goal. Greenwood to Fernandes to Donny van de Beek, who found Cavani and the Uruguayan made it 3-1.
3.Henderson’s mixed performance
Dean Henderson has now become Manchester United’s new number one, in which he has taken over from David De Gea. This change could be seen from the change in domestic and European keeper. Henderson was typically United’s cup and European keeper, while De Gea was United’s league keeper. Solskjaer has now made it clear in recent weeks that Henderson is the league keeper over De Gea. Evidently, this is quite a controversial decision and not one that all of the Old Trafford faithful will agree with.
Although, Henderson has put in some great performances as a United keeper, he still has a few mistakes in his game. This match against Burnley’s was probably Henderson’s worst performance. Seconds into the match and Henderson had already made a nervous mistake. Chris Wood beat the onrushing Henderson to the ball and the ball was into the back of the net. Henderson’s blushes were spared by the linesman flagging for offside. Burnley’s direct approach was always going to be an issue and Henderson would have to be on top of his game to stop the Claret’s from getting a shock three points.
The Englishman made some smart saves to deny Wood and his all round game was decent. Despite this, Henderson had numerous nervy moments and they took place mainly because of a lack of communication between himself and Lindelöf. Henderson came rushing out on multiple occasions and got nowhere near the ball and it felt like Henderson didn’t trust Victor Lindelöf in aerial situations. However, the United keeper was not at fault for Burnley’s equaliser. The 24-year-old was stuck in his own goal and was let down by United’s poor marking.
4. Subs make the difference vs Burnley
Manchester United were lacklustre going forward in the first half. There were a few “nearly” moments, but there was a lack of ideas and creativity in the final third. Red Devils’ boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer brought on Edison Cavani at half time to bring some movement in the final third. The lethal striker came on in place of Fred, in which Pogba went from his wide left position into his more natural role in midfield. Immediately, United were much more threatening going forward and this will give Solskjaer something to think about going forward.
Against lesser sides it may be time to ditch the Mctominay and Fred pivot, as United don’t need that extra man to provider greater defensive cover. Instead Ole should put Pogba start in a more central role and allow for another attacker to start the game. This would give United sufficient cover at the back and more creativity going forward. The United boss did make these changes in the second half and United put in a much more complete performance. Cavani held up the ball for United and gave them the outlook, which they were lacking in the first half. His movement made the Burnley defenders much more nervy and as a result Burnley began to sit much deeper.
The other substitute, Donny van de Beek also made a difference on his 24th birthday. The Dutch international made a variety of intelligent runs that had the aim of stretching the Burnley backline. This was extremely effective and his impact lead to United regaining the lead. The two subs combined in sublime fashion with the last kick of the ball, as van de Beek put it on a plate for Cavani, who got his tenth goal in all competitions.
5. Can United catch City?
The 14-point gap between the Manchester clubs one month ago has now gone down to an eight point gap with six games left to play. Manchester United will be kicking themselves for points lost in games where ultimately they shouldn’t have. The Red Devil’s had a poor start to the season and this was mainly due to fitness issues and a lack of pre-season. However, their have been many games where they haven’t got the three points due to poor performances or failure to see out a victory. For example, the shock defeat to Sheffield United, the 3-3 draw to Everton, the 1-1 draw to West Brom, the 0-0 with Crystal Palace and the 2-2 draw with Leicester.
As well as this United didn’t really push themselves like they did last season in games against the typical “big six”. The Red Devil’s missed several big chances in draws against Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea and these are all points, which would have put United in a position to really put pressure on their “noisy neighbours”. It is still possible for City to slip up, but Manchester United must continue their near perfect form and capitalize on any slip-ups.