Frustration reigns at Old Trafford as the same starting six from the Stoke draw a weeks ago drew blanks in a 0-0 stalemate with Burnley at Old Trafford. Thirty seven shots in total were not enough as Tom Heaton’s brilliant display kept United at bay. Zlatan Ibrahimovic will come heavily under the microscope as another weak performance means it’s six games goalless.
Paul Pogba bossed the midfield, and Ander Herrera was spectacular until his untimely slip brought another poor decision from controversial official Mark Clattenburg, who awarded him a second yellow card and barring an FA overturn means he will miss next weekend’s trip to Swansea.
Jose Mourinho was cast to the stands to start the second half, capping off what was a terrible day for United. One win in seven league games is not good enough for United, who sit in eighth with fifteen points, now eight behind Manchester City and Arsenal. Concerns are starting to mount.
Mata Leads From The Front
It was Juan Mata who got the armband to lead the team in the absence of Wayne Rooney, Chris Smalling and Michael Carrick from the First XI. The Spaniard who was all but sold in people’s minds when Jose Mourinho was announced as Manchester United’s manager, Mata has undertaken a personal renaissance to fight back and win his place.
Until yesterday, United had only dropped two points in the fixtures Mata had started (now four, obviously). However in all ten of his starts, Mata is yet to complete the ninety minutes and he was bizarrely taken off in the second half again against the Clarets.
Mata had three shots, created five chances, completed all his thirty four passes in the first half. On another day he would have had at least an assist and perhaps a goal to his name. It wasn’t to be.
Ibra’s Disastrous Day
Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be under the microscope this week. He has had his first goalless streak of six league games since December 2007, and has had thirty five shots in that span. It’s an awfully ugly fact that the Swede likely needs a rest. He is playing three times a week at thirty five years ago. He shouldn’t have played midweek against Manchester City.
Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial are perfectly reasonable alternatives up front, and despite some pleas Wayne Rooney is even worse than Ibrahimovic because he can’t even get in the position to score.
However Ibrahimovic’s misses are starting to cost not only goals, but points. United would be a lot higher in the table and certainly a better state overall if he had taken chances he would have otherwise scored on other days. It will become an elephant in the room unless he can turn it around, or Mourinho makes a tough call.
Pogba Luckless Domination
Paul Pogba was a joy to watch at times on Saturday, though he did sometimes overcomplicate things early. Once he grew into the game, he and Mata were at the heart of everything United did going forward. Social media continues to post his glaring lack of assists, because it is true that he has zero.
On Saturday he created six chances, three of which certainly should have been converted. With better finishers, the narrative might have changed to what a great start Pogba has made and what a creative influence he has had going forward.
Nevertheless, luck has not favoured the Frenchman so far and the situation is what it is. His magnificent performance against Fenerbahce has soon been forgotten, as his detractors demand more for the high price United paid to bring him home.
Herrera Sent Off & Mourinho Loses Cool & Control
Ander Herrera was also not favoured by luck on Saturday. He received his first yellow after first diving in on a challenge then attempting to pull out when he knew it was too late. In the second half with United controlling the game and seemingly attacking relentlessly, he slipped into a challenge and Mark Clattenburg promptly awarded a second yellow and sent him off.
It was another good display for Herrera, but this obviously soured it and turned the game on it’s head. United lost all tempo and intensity, and the prospect of winning the game seemed all but gone after that. It’s another reminder of Herrera’s growing importance to United, and they will miss him if his ban is upheld.
Mourinho meanwhile lost the plot when a Matteo Darmian run into the box was interrupted prompty by a Burnley defender, and Mark Clattenburg waved play on. His ramostrations led to his banning to the stands, which does not bode well with an FA “please explain” already issued for early incidents. He had minions constantly coming back and forth from the executive box meant his instructions were passed on, but it is not ideal with the club already struggling on the pitch results wise.
Poor Substitutions Costly
With Ander Herrera sent off, United lost dynamism and athleticism in the midfield, not to mention an extra body in their assault on the Burnley defence. Jose Mourinho’s answer? To bring on Wayne Rooney and Marouane Fellaini. Not only that, he took off Jesse Lingard and most importantly Juan Mata, United’s most influential attacker during the game.
The game died from there. Fellaini’s misplaced basic short pass ended the game, whilst Rooney blazed over wide open 12 yards out when presented with a late chance. They were laughable cameos and frankly bizarre changes in a game where United needed to remain vigilant.
United seem to be still ruled by bad selections and club politics, and it needs to start getting turned around. They were falling behind at a stage where their rivals are only getting stronger. With no game guaranteed for three points anymore, the tension is building at Old Trafford.