Manchester United kicks off against Burnley this weekend with spirits strangely high, and the Red Devils are in good form, hoping to dispatch an opponent to start a real run of momentum. United has an achievable, but not easy, six points to make up for at the top of the table, and playing Burnley at home is as good an opportunity as ever to do exactly that. With Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs and Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in a little bit of a shaky patch, now could be the chance for United to close in on two of the six teams above them.
Players have been in fantastic form for Manchester United, but the same can be said for Burnley, a side that sits 14th in the table despite being clear favourites for relegation. They are currently three points out of the relegation zone, which is more comfortable than it sounds when it comes to English football. Burnley can be stubborn and tough to break down, as shown by their wins over Liverpool and Everton, both of which came with a few quick sparks of talent. Those same sparks could be on show against a Manchester United side with far greater talent to choose from.
Michael Keane, Defender, Burnley
One of the only English defenders with a sustained reputation after the first nine weeks of the Premier League season, former Manchester United youth product Michael Keane has been quite impressive for Burnley for the early part of this season. At the heart of the Clarets’ defence, Keane has been quietly effective, averaging nine clearances per game and earning a healthy 7.12 average rating on WhoScored. Keane commented this week about not wanting to leave United, and the fact he was forced out after United’s abomination against MK Dons, and he will be eager to deny Zlatan Ibrahimovic of scoring opportunities.
Steven Defour, Midfielder, Burnley
Looking for an extra spark in attack and solidity in midfield, Burnley looked no further than Irish Euro stalwart Jeff Hendrick, and Steven Defour, and the two have built quite a solid midfield for the Clarets. That being said, Defour is undoubtedly the standout of the two players, and considering he’s playing for a side that can’t score goals, he’s got quite the tally. His goal and three assists in seven games is a considerably better tally than Paul Pogba from a similar position, though the difference is, Burnley plays everything through him. They will continue to do so on Saturday, and if they are to get a result, the Belgian will play a part (and no, that doesn’t mean Marouane Fellaini).
Ander Herrera, Midfielder, Manchester United
While Defour has been a good player for Burnley so far this year, and Pogba is the main man in terms of summer signings, the best midfielder, and player from either two sides has to be Ander Herrera, who is in unconditionally world class form right now. Stringing good performances together, including one at Stamford Bridge, he’s used his tenacity, passing and passion for creating an incredibly hard-working, progressive and balanced outlet from defensive midfield. He’s become extremely important to how United plays, and he will be tasked with a little bit of attacking should Burnley be forced into deeper areas at Old Trafford.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Attacking Midfielder, Manchester United
Whether he’s on the pitch or not this weekend, it will be well worth it to watch the storylines behind Henrikh Mkhitaryan, particularly the words Jose Mourinho will have to say about him if he doesn’t feature in the match. I think the words in the media about him have been a little bit untrue, and a little bit unfair, but I also believe it has been an extensive period of time for a player who needs time on the pitch. Questions around the Armenian will include how he fits in with Herrera, Pogba, Juan Mata and potentially Michael Carrick in the side. My suspicion is that Carrick could be saved for a game in which the side might need to defend more (he is 35 and shouldn’t play too much), most likely the Fenerbahce match. Mata and Mkhitaryan could play in a freely-rotating system on the right side.