A comfortable victory at Old Trafford was well overdue. The last time that Manchester United had won by more than one goal at home was Cristiano Ronaldo’s debut against Newcastle.
Since then United have been on a rollercoaster which has involved some humiliating defeats, Ole Gunnar Solskjær leaving, Ralf Rangnick joining and loads of other details in between.
The 3-1 win against Burnley at home was relieving, entertaining and had several talking points.
Let’s take a look.
1. Sancho’s defensive side could be important for Reds
Jadon Sancho capped an impressive performance off with a great finish into the bottom corner — *cough* Ben Mee’s touch doesn’t count because it’s less fun *cough* — but he wasn’t actually at his sparkling best on the attack, completing 0 of his 3 attempted take-ons.
It was actually his defensive performance that caught my eye during the game and I wanted to go into greater detail after the final whistle.
This Twitter thread below discusses some of the impressive defensive contributions that Sancho made throughout the match.
It’s no surprise that, despite being just 21 years of age, Sancho is extremely intelligent in these defensive/pressing situations. He’s a Borussia Dortmund product. The pressing implemented there, and in Germany in general, is very impressive. That ultimately shines through.
He’s pivotal to the team if United want to improve defensively.
It’s strange to say that about a winger, but one of our main problems has been that our shape out of possession has needed improving. Sancho brings that.
And a heck of a lot else too.
2. Haven’t we missed Luke Shaw’s parading runs?
I, for one, was very happy to see Luke Shaw glide past four or five Burnley players like they weren’t there after just 19 minutes. He almost got me off my seat when he fired a shot towards goal at the end of said run. Alas, I stayed sat when seeing the ball go into the side netting.
It wasn’t the only time that the returning left-back would roam forward though, and after a smart one-two with Sancho, Shaw was driving down the left flank. Although his deep cross was not as successful as the one that landed perfectly at Cristiano Ronaldo towards the start of the match, he was able to recover possession and then slide Sancho in to double United’s lead.
Shaw continued to impress throughout the match. He created the most chances in the game (3), was pivotal in build-up and progression and completed both of his attempted tackles.
There’s a fair argument to make for Diogo Dalot keeping his right-back spot over Aaron Wan-Bissaka. The 22-year-old has shown some promising signs in the last month.
However, it felt like Alex Telles on the opposite side was merely waiting for United’s no.23 to fully recover and show us why he’s so important when he finally returns.
The ball carrying. The press resistance. The passing. The link-up. Luke Shaw is simply really good at football, and will help United be a better team when he’s on the football field.
Oh, and again, the ball carrying.
3. Scott McTominay is a destroyer not a holder
Winning the most duels (8) in the match, Scott McTominay stamped his authority in the middle of midfield in the early minutes of this encounter and didn’t lose it all game.
He was a powerhouse — with the more defensive Nemanja Matic anchoring the midfield behind him — with a moment in the the first half the perfect example of what McTominay brought to the game.
Fighting off two Burnley players in the middle, McTominay steamed through the middle of midfield with the ball, driving towards the opposition penalty area.
A well-timed pass to Ronaldo, who had made a good run into the box, deserved an assist. But the striker was denied well by the defence of Sean Dyche’s side.
Ultimately, we saw the best of Scott McTominay in that instance. Though, that is not the best of a player that you’d associate being your deepest midfielder.
United need a deep midfielder regardless. However, the Scotsman is showing to be keen to improve under Rangnick, and has shown particular strengthening in his passing in recent games.
It was a commanding performance in the centre of the park, one that you’d expect of a Premier League midfielder in the mid-2000s, and a nice reminder that Scott McTominay can be useful for this team.
However, the strengths we are seeing are ones of an advancing box-to-box midfielder, rather than the holding midfielder that United seem to be attempting to mould the 25-year-old into.