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Preview: The 4-2-2-2 formation does not work for United, not with this squad – they must beat Burnley

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Manchester United -v- Burnley

Premier League

Old Trafford, Manchester

Thursday 30 December 2021, KO 20:15 GMT

Referee: Jonathan Moss Assistants: Marc Perry, Timothy Wood

Fourth Official: Paul Tierney

VAR: Darren England Assistant VAR: Dan Robathan

Manchester United welcome Burnley to Old Trafford in the Premier League on Thursday evening in what will be the final match played in 2021. It will be shown live in the United Kingdom on Amazon Prime, the second of two match weeks the company had bought in the last television rights auction. United drew 1-1 with Newcastle United at St James’ Park on Monday evening, which was considered a poor result based on the form of the Magpies and their position in the league table. Ralf Rangnick will need to get the best out of this team, which looks very hard at this time as any form they had before a 16-day break in matches seems to have gone.

United have lost just one of their last 13 Premier League matches against Burnley, winning eight and drawing four. The last defeat was in January 2020 with Burnley won 2-0. United will be seeking to end 2021 on a high, avoiding defeat in their last match of the year. This could be the tenth year in a row – they have won six and drawn three so far. Burnley have won six of their ten Premier League points against United at Old Trafford, which will lead to some confidence for them. This will be an important match for both teams with United looking to break into the top for and Burnley seeking to avoid a relegation battle this season.

Manchester United – Recent Form, Goals Scored and Assists: DWDWWD

Newcastle United 1-1 D, Norwich City 1-0 W, Young Boys 1-1 D, Crystal Palace 1-0 W, Arsenal 3-2 W, Chelsea 1-1 D

Goals: 13 – Cristiano Ronaldo, 5 – Bruno Fernandes, Mason Greenwood, 3 – Marcus Rashford, 2 – Edinson Cavani, Fred, Jesse Lingard, Jadon Sancho, 1 – Anthony Martial, Alex Telles, Donny van de Beek

Assists: 9 – Bruno Fernandes, 7 – Paul Pogba, 3 – Luke Shaw, 2 – Mason Greenwood, Victor Lindelof, Nemanja Matic, Cristiano Ronaldo 1 – Fred, Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford, Raphael Varane

Burnley – Recent Form, Goals Scored and Assists: DLDDDW

West Ham United 0-0 D, Newcastle United 1-0 L, Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-0 D, Crystal Palace 3-3 D, Chelsea 1-1 D, Brentford 3-1 W

Goals: 5 – Maxwel Cornet, 4 – Jay Rodriguez, 3 – Chris Wood, 2 – Ben Mee, 1 – Matthew Lowton, James Tarkowski, Matej Vydra

Assists: 4 – Ashley Westwood, 2 – Matthew Lowton, James Tarkowski, Matej Vydra, 1 – Maxwel Cornet, Jóhann Gudmundsson, Dwight McNeil, Jay Rodriguez, Charlie Taylor

Previous meetings with Burnley and their connections with Manchester United.

United and Burnley have played a total of 14 matches in the history of the Premier League. United have won eight matches, drawing four with Burnley winning the remaining two matches. United have scored a total of 21 goals, winning four penalties and scoring two of them. Burnley have scored nine goals, winning no penalties. United have kept a total of eight clean sheets with Burnley keeping a total of four in these matches. United players have been shown a total of 25 yellow cards and two red cards with Burnley players shown a total of 36 yellow cards and no red cards. United should be winning this match.

There is much history between United and Burnley with no fewer than 15 players having played for both clubs. Phil Bardsley, Luke Chadwick, Andy Cole, John Connelly, Chris Eagles, Richard Eckersley, David Jones, Michael Keane, David May, Willie Morgan, John O’Kane, Mike Phelan, Lee Roche, Colin Waldron and John Walton have all played for both clubs. The more well known players on the list are Morgan who played for United from 1968 to 1975, Mike Phelan, current assistant who played for United from 1989 to 1994 and treble winners Andy Cole, who played for United from 1995 to 2001 and David May who played for United from 1994 until 2003.

Team News: United will miss two players due to injury and oe due to suspension with one more having a 50/50 chance of featuring on Thursday. Burnley have two players ruled out, two other doubts.

Paul Pogba (Thigh), Victor Lindelof (Coronavirus) and Bruno Fernandes (Suspension) will all mis the match against Burnley on Thursday evening. Anthony Martial (Knee) has a 50% chance of being fit to face Burnley. Rangnick could be forced to seek to include youth players in the squad for this match, at least in the training group, selecting them if they are needed. United will have been boosted ahead of the Newcastle draw with the return to Raphaël Varane and Edinson Cavani, who have both been out of the squad with longer-term injuries. When they both get full match fitness, they will be integral to United’s squad.

Ashley Barnes (Thigh) and Connor Roberts (Illness) have both been ruled out of the trip to Old Trafford on Thursday evening due to injury. Dale Stephens (Illness) has a 75% chance of featuring against United having met the Covid protocols. Maxwel Cornet (Thigh) has a 50% chance of featuring against United having recovered from injury, suffering from Covid at the same time. It would seem that Burnley will have a stronger team to face United, which could be good for them, especially if they saw how badly United played, especially in the first half, against Newcastle on Monday evening.

Predicted Starting XI: Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani to lead the line against Burnley, supported by Donny van de Beek with Bruno Fernandes suspended. Three-man midfield, no 4-2-2-2 formation.

Rangnick will not have been impressed by the performance against Newcastle on Monday evening. United were worse than poor in that match with the captain suggesting that they ‘ran out of steam’ because of the 16 days between the poor performance against Norwich City and another poor performance against the Magpies. United beat Norwich and drew with Newcastle, conceding just one goal in the two matches, but this squad should have done much better. Changes will need to be made ahead of the Burnley match with two players ruled out through injury/illness and another through suspension. United need to win this match – convincingly.

I would imagine that David De Gea will keep his place as the goalkeeper for this match, despite it coming just three days after he played against Newcastle. Diogo Dalot should keep his position as the right-back, as despite some problems against Allan Saint-Maximin, he persevered. Luke Shaw should perhaps come in at left-back with Raphaël Varane and Harry Maguire partnering in the centre of the defence. A three-man midfield would be better than the 4-2-2-2 formation with Jadon Sancho (wide), Nemanja Matic (defensive) and Scott McTominay all playing. Donny van de Beek should play just behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani.

Match Prediction: United beat Burnley home and away last season, scoring four goals and conceding one. This season needs to be much better than that – despite United’s current form.

In this fixture last season, United won 3-1 with Mason Greenwood, assisted by Marcus Rashford opening the scoring. James Tarkowski, assisted by Ashley Westwood equalised minutes later. Greenwood completed his brace, restoring United’s lead in the 84th minute, assisted by Paul Pogba with Edinson Cavani securing United the win with a two-goal cushion three minutes into added time, assisted by Donny van de Beek. At Turf Moor, United won 1-0 with Paul Pogba, assisted by Rashford, scoring the only goal of the match in the 71st minute. This will be the third time United have met Burnley in 2021.

United need to find some form. They have been terrible of late, drawing with Newcastle United in their last match, beating Norwich City 1-0 in the match prior to that, which had 16 days in-between because of coronavirus, seeing the matches against Brentford and Brighton and Hove Albion postponed and costing United any kind of form. Rangnick will need to get his team working hard, despite playing again just three days after the dire draw with the Magpies. United will face Wolverhampton Wanderers at Old Trafford on the 3 January 2022 then have seven days break before welcoming Aston Villa in the Emirates FA Cup.

Manchester United 3-1 Burnley

Written by John Walker

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copyright: JW