Manchester United vs Burnley
They’ve just suffered defeat to their biggest rivals, losing to Liverpool at the weekend, and now Manchester United face Burnley in the next round of Premier League games.
Red Devils fans will hope for an immediate response and, on the face of it, a home game against a Burnley side aiming to climb away from trouble is a good opportunity to return to winning ways.
United came away from Turf Moor with a comfortable 0-2 win at the end of December, but they won’t expect an easy ride on Wednesday night. It may not be the best time to face Sean Dyche’s Clarets who have just seen off third-placed Leicester City.
United need reinforcements
The Red Devils were outplayed by Liverpool in the big North West derby on Sunday, but they somehow managed to stay in the game and gave Jurgen Klopp’s runaway leaders a fright or two in the last 15 minutes, before Mo Salah raced away to score a last-minute goal. But the gulf between the two teams has led former United legend Gary Neville to say that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s squad is five or six players of competing at the top end of the table.
The TV pundit never hides his love for the Red Devils nor does he pull any punches, saying: “They’ve made some terrible investments in terms of recruitment and it’s all coming home to roost.”
Solskjaer predicted, at the start of the season, that the Red Devils might struggle to find consistency at the highest level, and they featured lightly in the re-season SBOTOP tips. But that’s a little hard for some diehard Red Devils’ fans to swallow. They are used to winning week after week.
A nasty back injury to Marcus Rashford has dealt a blow to United’s top-four hopes. The England striker has plundered 14 league goals this season but a back injury means he is likely to be out for two to three months.
Anthony Martial has eight goals to his name but the Frenchman is the epitome of his team, struggling to deliver week on week. He missed a golden opportunity to equalise against Liverpool. Still only 24 he has plenty of time on his hands but United fans want to see him step up; and right now.
Clarets ready for another run?
Beating Leicester City on Sunday was a huge boost for Burnley. The Clarets’ Premier League 2020 results have been poor, and by beating the Foxes they ended a four-match losing streak. One-off results aren’t the norm for Sean Dyche’s team this season. The Clarets tend to go on little runs, good or bad. Before the latest poor sequence of form Burnley had back-to-back wins, then three defeats, then two wins, then three defeats, then a four-match unbeaten run.
They don’t tend to win-lose-win-lose.
Burnley are a confidence team, and their second-half display against Brendan Rodgers’ Champions League chasers was as good as their loyal fans have seen for weeks; aggressive, determined and with a rapier-sharp cutting edge.
Striker Chris Wood is an unsung hero. He netted his ninth of the season against Leicester, while keeper Nick Pope put in a fine performance, including saving a Jamie Vardy penalty.
Look out for wing-back Charlie Taylor; since his £5m switch from Leeds United he has developed into a solid defender, and makes flying runs down the left flank in support of your star Dwight McNeil, and has a wicked cross.
Of the 12 recent meetings between these two teams, the Red Devils have won seven, drawn four and lost just one against Burnley.
But there has been a surprising symmetry to the last two meetings between Manchester United and Burnley at Old Trafford. In both games, the Clarets went into a two-goal lead before the hosts levelled deep into stoppage time.
Last season a dramatic late fightback secured the Red Devils a point as Victor Lindelof poked home in the 92nd minute after Paul Pogba had scored an 87th-minute penalty. It was one of those famous Manchester United comebacks, but it signalled the first points dropped under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after he had won his first eight games in charge.
The previous year’s clash was a 2-2 Boxing Day treat in which Burnley held a two-goal lead at the break before Jesse Lingard completed his double on 91 minutes.
Both teams have won two in the last six games, in all competitions.
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