Manchester United welcome Burnley to Old Trafford in the Premier League on Sunday just three days after reaching the UEFA Europa League semi-finals where they will face AS Roma. United’s 3-1 victory over Tottenham Hotspur last Sunday saw United open up a lead in second place in the league, giving them space over Leicester City, who are currently third in the league. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be seeking to see the same from his squad, who have only lost to Leicester City (Emirates FA Cup), Sheffield United (Premier League) and Manchester City (Carabao Cup) in 2021. That is good form but still some moan about this.
If United beat Burnley, which is their 32nd Premier League match of the season and levelling up with the number of matches City have played, it will leave United just eight points from City in second place with six matches left to play in the league before the end of the season. Granted, United’s chance of winning the league has long been gone but they can show good form between now on the end of the season, which could add some pressure on City and who knows what could happen. To see United finish the season strongly would benefit them next season, where they will need to start strongly, which is not what happened this season.
How United have faired against Burnley in the Premier League.
United and Burnley have played 13 times in the history of the Premier League. United have won seven times, drawing four times with Burnley winning the remaining two matches. United have scored 18 goals with Burnley scoring just eight. The Red Devils were awarded four penalties, scoring two of them with Burnley yet to win a penalty against them. United have kept eight clean sheets with Burnley keeping four. In terms of discipline, United’s players have been booked 24 times and were shown two red cards. Burnley’s players have been shown 34 yellow cards with no red cards at this time.
This season, United beat Burnley at Turf Moor in a 1-0 victory with Paul Pogba, assisted by Marcus Rashford, scoring the only goal of the match. This was a match that was delayed from earlier in the season as it was supposed to be the opening Premier League match for United. At the time this match was played, United were flying high in the league table and topped it after this result. United have been in second place since Manchester City took the top spot. In the fixture at Old Trafford last season, Burnley won 2-0 with Chris Wood, assisted by Ben Mee and Jay Rodriguez, assisted by Wood, scoring the goals.
Here is my predicted starting XI to face Burnley in the Premier League at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon…
Goalkeeper: Dean Henderson
Dean Henderson was rested on Thursday evening with David De Gea playing in the UEFA Europa League clash with Granada, which saw United win 2-0, 4-0 on aggregate to earn a place in the semi-finals of the competition. Henderson is probably seen as the number one goalkeeper at the club which will give the manager a headache about De Gea’s future at the club. Henderson last played against Tottenham Hotspur last week and despite conceding in the 40th minute of the match, did well and helped United in victory. Henderson is a very good goalkeeper and many will be excited to see what he can achieve at the club.
The player knows his talents and has always been vocal in that way and his loan spells away from the club with his last two seasons being played out at Sheffield United, defined his career in showing what United had on their books which resulted in him showing what he’s got this season and challenging De Gea for his place in the team. Henderson has 21 appearances to his name at United this season and he has only conceded 15 goals, keeping 12 clean sheets. It is only a matter of time before other clubs start to see what a player he is and I truly believe that he will silence a lot of his critics.
Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw
United were back to barebones in terms of defenders for Thursday’s match which saw Victor Lindelof and Axel Tuanzebe start together, playing well for the 90 minutes – which was great to see. Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw were both suspended for the clash, which has allowed them just about a week’s rest before playing again, which at this stage of the season will be good for them. Aaron Wan-Bissaka will end up playing through, which I am sure he is happy with, although Solskjaer has the strength in depth to bring in Brandon Williams, just like he did one Thursday.
Against Burnley this weekend, I feel that Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire and Shaw will all feature against the team which is unbeaten in their last five trips to the Theatre of Dreams. United will need to be the better of the 16th placed club in the league who are seven points away from the relegation places. Ideally, United will be seeking to keep a clean sheet in the match, knowing that Burnley have only scored 32 goals this season with United scoring their 100th goal on Thursday evening, which was an own goal – one of five own goals scored for them this season. United’s defence needs some work but these players are able to achieve this season.
Midfield: Donny van de Beek, Scott McTominay, Paul Pogba
United have played with a three-man midfield in the last two matches, which has also featured Bruno Fernandes playing inn the number ten position. I think United have played better inn this formation, which has seen them dominate and positions them strongly in the areas that they have been weak in this season. I would like to see Donny van de Beek, Scott Mctominay, who was suspended for Thursday’s match and Paul Pogba all play in the midfield as I feel the Burnley will play the majority of their player’s being the ball for much of the match as that is what these teams do when they come to the Theatre of Dreams.
Van de Beek should be starting as he has not played a lot of football this season. He has played 30 times for United this season, scoring one goal and one assist but in terms of minutes played, he has only been on the pitch for 1,174 minutes, which is an average of 39 minutes per appearance – which is not good enough for a player of his calibre. Solskjaer has tried to smoothen the transition of the rise form the Eredivisie to the Premier League but even he is capable of performing at a high level. Pogba has been in form inn his last few matches, getting three assists in his last four. McTominay gives his all when on the pitch too, which is good to see.
Attacking Midfield: Bruno Fernandes
Brunno Fernandes is the Portuguese magnifico and has been the best signing of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s. He is definitely the player that will be awarded the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award this season and has a good chance of winning the PFA Player of the Year and being shortlisted for the Ballon d’Or – but maybe not in the top three. Fernandes has been inspirational and only Eric Cantona has had a similar start to his United career as the Portuguese midfielder. Recently though, Fernandes has been laboured and probably needs a rest but he has a player that will not want special treatment either.
He has scored 24 goals this season, also achieving an additional 14 assists meaning that he has a goal contribution of 38 goals this season, which is magnificent. United are reliant on the player being in good form which is why they need to balance the squad and make the club less reliant on him. Many opposition supporters will be jealous to see a player like Fernandes in United’s squad. As much as they mock him, you have measure that level in jealousy that their club does not have him. I would not change anything and think he has been a great addition to the club and the squad and he loves it at Manchester United – which is great.
Forwards: Mason Greenwood, Edinson Cavani
Edinson Cavani is in form right now. He scored against Spurs (twice) and was one of the figures behind the comeback from 1-0 down in the first half of that match. He also has a good game against Granada ons Thursday evening, scoring his second goal of the week and extending his record to nine goals this season, and he has two assists from earlier in the season, meaning he has a goal contribution of 11 goals this season. It might not please some but the Uruguayan is inn form at the right time – the business end of the season. United will be seeking to achieve something and set the pace for next season which will hopefully continue with him.
Mason Greenwood is also a player that has moved on in strides this season. His goal contribution is not like it was last season but he has upped his progress at the club and is seeking to move into more of a strikers role, which has been the case in the last two matches with him playing up top in periods or on Thursday, for much of the match. Greenwood has scored 13 Premier League goals for United and is only better by Wayne Rooney in the teenage goalscoring rankings, which means another two goals before he’s 20, which won’t happen until the 1 October 2021, will see him achieve what Rooney did, in terms of league goals in his teenage years.
Substitutes: David De Gea; Alex Telles, Brandon Williams, Axel Tuanzebe; Juan Mata, Fred, Amad Diallo, Nemanja Matic; Marcus Rashford
Substitutes could play a big part in this match, keeping the squad fresh – despite having a week to ready themselves for their next match which is a trip to Leeds United, which United have not endured since 2011, although that was in the League Cup. The last Premier League match at Elland Road was in October 2003 with Roy Keane scoring the winner. Solskjaer will only be able to name nine players on the bench for Premier League matches, using three of those during the course of the match. I expect David De Gea to be back on the bench after his clean sheet against Granada with Henderson starting the match.
In defence, Alex Telles, Brandon Williams and Axel Tuanzebe will be available but it is possible that Eric Bailly could be back after missing the last few matches after the international break because of coronavirus. He may not be fit enough to take part though. In midfield, Juan Mata, Fred, Amad Diallo and Nemanja Matic could all be called upon should they be needed. In attack, which is an area that United have a lack of cover for right now, Marcus Rashford could be available, although he was on the bench on Thursday and was not used. If he is not able to take part, Anthony Elanga, who faced Manchester City at U23 level on Friday, could be involved.
Written by John Walker