Manchester United fans returned to Old Trafford for the first time in 22 days. Fresh from a disappointing visit to Eddie Howe’s Newcastle, where United drew the game 1-1, the Reds needed a strong reaction against Burnley.
Three first half goals from Scott McTominay, Jadon Sancho (or a Ben Mee OG) and Cristiano Ronaldo were just what the doctor ordered. However, while Aaron Lennon attempted to keep his teams strong recent record at Old Trafford in tact, his late goal in the first half was the last of the game and United got three well deserved and important points.
It was not a brilliant performance by any means, but it was a step in the right direction for Ralf Rangnick’s side.
Story of the game
It was another strong start at Old Trafford for the Red Devils after their early domination against Crystal Palace earlier this month. However, this time they were rewarded with their earliest goal of the season, with Scott McTominay finishing expertly into the bottom right after eight minutes.
It came minutes after Cristiano Ronaldo missed a one-on-one with Wayne Hennessey after Luke Shaw produced a world class pass from left-back to his forward. The goal, however, started from the right side.
After Mason Greenwood’s effort at goal from the right was blocked well, the ball fell back to the teenager who teased and turned before teeing the ball up towards the edge of the box. Cristiano Ronaldo was on the receiving end, but a slightly loose touch could’ve squandered the chance. However, the Scotsman was on hand to stroke the ball home in brilliant fashion.
An important block from Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who returned to a Premier League starting 11 for the first time since late November – was essential for United to hold their early lead.
The return of Shaw was a great positive for Rangnick and he was showing exactly what United were missing while he’s been out of the team.
A mazy run from his own half led to a shot from the edge of the box firing into the side-netting on 19 minutes. Two minutes later he was involved in a neat one-two with Jadon Sancho, before he released the winger down the left. Sancho drove into the box with conviction and slid the ball in the bottom right-hand corner, albeit a bit of help from Ben Mee’s slight deflection.
United were 2-0 up within 30 minutes and they were not done yet. A wonderful switch from left to right by Greenwood found Sancho isolated against his full-back. He was calm enough to set up McTominay, who drove towards the edge of the box and struck a thunderous strike towards the Burnley net. Hennessey pulled out a superb diving save to deny the initial chance, but Ronaldo was on hand to score his easiest goal of the season, tapping the ball into an empty net.
This goal meant that United’s no.7 was the first and only player to score in both the 2005/06 and 2021/22 league campaigns. This lasted for around three minutes before Aaron Lennon grabbed one back for the visitors.
A loose first touch from Eric Bailly allowed Lennon to nip in to take the ball and isolate his partner Harry Maguire one-on-one. Maguire attempted to hold his position and not dive in, but Lennon was given the space to find the bottom left, which he did so precisely.
The second half didn’t bring as much success as the beginning of the first, but Greenwood did go close to scoring after a slick attacking move led to his finish being just slightly too close to the goalkeeper. Cavani also smashed the ball into the goalkeeper from close range after being set up by Ronaldo, who received a deeper cross from Sancho on the left.
Burnley’s best chance came on 89 minutes where Erik Pieters was on the end of a cross in open space, but a complete miskick left him jeered by the home crowd minutes before they changed to elation when the full-time whistle was blown.
A United performance, helped by Mason Greenwood and Jadon Sancho
A solid win, and after some of the team looked to rather argue and moan than play when against Newcastle, the players looked much more focused in this encounter.
Jadon Sancho and Mason Greenwood came into the attacking midfield roles and offered more than Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford in the attacking phases but more importantly in defence too.
The pair were regularly dropping into shape and pressing well when they needed to, which helped compliment an impressive overall defensive performance, despite a silly mistake from Bailly which led to Lennon’s smart finish in the first half.
Three points were the most important thing on the agenda, however, and after the victory United sit just four points behind Arsenal in fourth, and also yield another game-in-hand on The Gunners, who face Manchester City next. Meanwhile, United are back at Old Trafford on Monday evening to host Wolves.