Manchester United saw themselves unable to change their form in the Premier League after drawing 0-0 with a resurgent Burnley side, who has Tom Heaton not been in the form he was, could well have been different. United had 37 shots on goal, 11 of those on target, eight off target and a further 18 being blocked by Sean Dyche’s ultra-defensive side who literally clung to the point they took away from the Theatre of Dreams. Jose Mourinho was sent to the stands and Ander Herrera was sent off for two bookable offences, meaning both will most likely miss the visit to Swansea City a week on Sunday, with Mourinho likely to be banished to the stands, especially after a previous charge for comments said prior to the Liverpool match, which he has until 6pm on Monday to answer to.
Mourinho had to make a change for the match against Burnley with Matteo Darmian replacing the injured Antonio Valencia at right-back. Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo would partner each other in central defence and Luke Shaw would complete the defence at left-back. Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera started in midfield with Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata, the captain for the match and Marcus Rashford the three behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic. United started the match in fine form, looking for a goal, but Tom Heaton, the former United Academy graduate would haunt them for the entire match, thwarting United’s attempts on goal, of which there was much more to follow.
Efforts by Ibrahimovic and Mata were frustrating as the former hit the crossbar, the latter hit the post. It was going to be one of those days for Manchester United. Herrera was booked in the 33rd minute for a challenge, seeing red midway through the second half, in which he lost his footing, so may feel the red was a harsh decision, but being a second booking, I doubt United will be able to contest the red card, which will mean Herrera will miss the next match away to Swansea City. Ibrahimovic had 12 shots on goal, four of which were on target, Mata has seven shots, four of those were on target, so the pair were most likely to score, but luck seemed to have disappeared.
Former United player Michael Keane put in a good performance against his former side, heading out a Paul Pogba cross into Ibrahimovic, which would have threatened the Burnley keeper. United seemed to be doing everything right in order to find the back of the net, but Burnley did everything they needed to do in order to ensure they didn’t. Mourinho’s side were on top of their game, breaking the record for the most shots on goal during the game, which suggests the shackles that Louis van Gaal put on the side over the last two season’s has well and truly been cut off. Last season United controlled matches with almost perfect possession, this season, possession seems to be a stat that United are not that bothered about winning, creating many opportunities and bringing back the entertainment factor.
United seemed to have been unstuck by poor officiating by Mark Clattenburg, but that is not something the club can do anything about, as if anyone says anything about the officiating, they end up being charged by the FA for bringing the game into disrepute. To be honest, the officiating, for the last few season’s has been very poor with many clubs coming a cropper down to a referee having a bad performance, but in the end, they are unable to do anything about it, with these rules in place. It shows that something needs to give in this area as referees seem to be the only sheriffs in town, meaning they are always right, even when they are wrong. Clattenburg is one of the referees which many (wrongly) assumed was a United supporter, but after today, I bet there are not many suggesting he was now a Burnley fan.
Mourinho was sent to the stands by Clattenburg after protesting about a penalty, which was not given, after Darmian was taken out inside the box. There was another shout later in the match after Pogba’s cross into the box was deemed to have touched Keane’s hand, which Clattenburg then gave a corner for. If it was not Heaton doing the business for Burnley, it was the woodwork. United just did not have all the luck they needed, which is one of those things. The attacking prowess seemed to be there, the talent to get the better of the opposition was there, even after United were down to ten men. The luck was not. We pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and get ready to do it all again on Thursday in Istanbul as United face Fenerbahçe in the UEFA Europa League.
United made three changes in the final 17 minutes of the match with Marouane Fellaini and Wayne Rooney replacing Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata on the 73rd minute, with Memphis Depay being the final chance nine minutes later, replacing Marcus Rashford. After the first two changes, Burnley had a chance to take the game after Sam Vokes flicked Scott Arfield’s cross narrowly past David De Gea’s post. It was a let-off for United, which could have seen an awful lot of negativity come their way if they were beaten by Sean Dyche’s side. In the final few minutes of the match, in which five minutes of stoppage time was played, Daley Blind could have been the hero for United after seeing his shot over, then Luke Shaw saw his shot curl wide of the target before Wayne Rooney missed a sitter by firing over the crossbar, which just sums up his current form.
United have only lost one of their last seven matches, which is alright, but when you want to mount a title challenge, you need to be grinding out the victories. United last won in the Premier League in the 4-1 victory over Leicester City back in September and will now head into the match against Swansea City next Sunday looking to grind out a victory to take all three points. United are now eighth in the Premier League, by should Southampton get a result against Chelsea, United could be heading down to ninth place with the mid-table sides. A title challenge may well come this season, but at this stage that is all it could be. United may need to set their sights on fourth place in the league to ensure they qualify for the UEFA Champions League next season, the EFL Cup, the Emirates FA Cup and even the UEFA Europa League might be their only viable options for a trophy this season, and that could well be at a push.
Manchester United: De Gea; Darmian, Rojo, Blind, Shaw; Herrera, Pogba; Lingard (Rooney 73′), Mata (Fellaini 73′), Rashford (Memphis 82′); Ibrahimovic
Substitutes Not Used: Romero; Carrick, Young, Schneiderlin
Bookings: Ander Herrera 33′, 68′ sent off, Paul Pogba 84′