A tricky away day navigated pretty expertly as Martial and Rashford’s late clincher took the game away from Burnley, putting the Red Devils into fifth, just 1 point behind Chelsea in fourth.
It was something we hadn’t seen at all away from home in the league: a Man Utd midfield taking the sting out of the crowd and controlling the centre of the park. Fred’s blip against Watford may turn out to be just that as today, once again, he showed the ability to make Man Utd splash that hefty sum they did 18 months ago. Today, and in recent times, he was sharper in possession rather than dwindling, trying to wrestle against the opposition who have bigger and stronger than he is. The quick play was exactly what was needed at the Turf Moor because it is exactly what Burnley’s midfield could not cope with. The Brazilian punched passes through the lines, he and Ashley Young were the ones particularly good at this today, which allowed Martial and Pereira to pick up the ball behind The Clarets’ midfield, on the half turn and straight onto Burnley’s defence. A poor touch aside, leading to a McNeil chance in the second half, it was an accomplished performance. Funnily enough, given the circumstances, it was display of Matic in the centre of the park that would actually impress the most. In less than ideal conditions vs less than ideal opposition, the experience of the Serbian shone through as a bit of composure and steady positioning was just what the doctor ordered. At his worst, Matic can make these tropes look cumbersome and lethargic but that was not on show today. Even his passing, much maligned, was precise today, even capable of zipping into the attackers on the odd occasion. Pereira played a game that could measure up to his best of the season, playing an excellent pass to Martial for the first goal. All in all, in a season where the biggest issues stem from the fulcrum of the team, the personnel stationed there against Burnley more than held their own.
It is hard not to get excited when Williams plays like that, not just because of the promise he shows, but more due to the fact of Shaw failing to inspire any sort of confidence in the United faithful over these past 12 months. It was strange to see Rashford as central as he was during that first half, sometimes looking as if he was up top in a duo with Martial but it just struck of the English international vacating space for the young LB to run at his man and the latter duly delivered. The number of times that he picked up the ball and ran at his opponent was something I had not seen from a LB in United colours for a long time. Not only was it his ability to transition into attack with his running or passing into midfield but his delivery into the box should have garnered at least one assist for the local boy, if there had been sharper movement in the box. It wasn’t just his offensive contribution that stood out but the aggression in defence when faced up by the Burnley wingers or full backs. The way he won a foul in the dying minutes to eat up time at the end summed up a quite brilliant performance from my man of the match
A first clean sheet in 14 games was built on great rearguard action. De Gea looked back to his composed self, a great save from Bardsley the stand out. Maguire and Lindelof dealt impressively with the long balls, competing successfully with Wood and Barnes. As aforementioned, Young and Williams were excellent going both ways.
Martial continued his scoring with a great finish to break the deadlock and this was perhaps the game where he looked at his most dangerous in the box. He probably should have added a second between having one cleared off the line, a disallowed goal that may have been given on the other day, a decent strike that Pope saved with his legs and the chance he eventually didn’t strike when James put him through. On another day, the lack of finishing may have come back to bite United if they hadn’t defended so admirably at the back and that ruthlessness will need to come into that game if he looks to stake his claim as Man Utd no.9 for the foreseeable future.