The game reorganised from the opening week due to Man Utd’s deep exploits into last season’s Europa League. Who knew that the game would present the opportunity for the Red Devils to go top of the league. It would be as late in the season as they have ever been number one in the table, post-Fergie. A startling stat, but one to be expunged. All it needed was for us not to lose. Given Burnley’s home form in recent weeks, it was a game that needed maximum focus and patience in the same regard. The first half was a sticky affair, with the referee taking the centre stage, with some poor decisions. The poorest being the disallowed Maguire goal where Kevin Friend deemed there was a push from the captain, when it would have been much easier for him to disappear his arm somehow. I digress. The second half saw more in terms of tempo from the United players and the better speed in passing saw us open the scoring with a fantastic strike from Pogba. A beautifully measured clip into him by Rashford saw Pogba connect sweetly with the ball and a slight nick off a Burnley defender took into the net. A win that was deserved.
The midfield pivot in front of the defence changes on a game by game basis. Today, it was the pivot that played against Sheffield Utd and Wolves. Burnley are in a similar ilk in that they would seek to make it difficult for us to progress play in behind and make us work the ball around the box in order to fashion openings. They may have flaws but Matic and Pogba both present better passing avenues, along with better composure on the ball. Whilst the Serbian done very well in his screening of the back four, it was Pogba’s impetus in both his ball retention and progression, with both his carrying and passes, that was ultimately the difference in the game today. Many a time, the Frenchman can be accused of lacking the requisite fight in the middle of the park to play there, which is why he can often find him off the left hand side in games in which opponent’s midfield are the better parts of their team. He was up for the fight today. As is required, and often requested, he fought his way into the game and brought himself the ability to play by matching the work rate and aggression of his counterparts. That was what much of the first half was about. It was a scrappy game and not much was happening apart from VAR’s incessant intervention. In the second, it was more of his work on the ball that was delightful to see. He was constantly moving the ball with the needed speed that was missing in the first half. He topped it off with a great goal, which he absolutely leathered into the back of the net, as a slight deflection helped it past Nick Pope
Winning On Your Bad Days
We have all seen this story played out countless times before. Sometimes, it may not be your day. In United’s case, the door was being gently tapped rather than being bashed down. The first half, apart from two Martial efforts with his instep and another blocked overhead kick, the Burnley keeper hardly had to worry. One of the instep efforts was dipping into the top corner but for a keeper of Pope’s height, it was always going to be a comfortable save. A chance that Bruno dinked into the box was taken off Cavani by Martial’s overzealous touch and then the Uruguayan had two chances of his own. One nestled in the keeper’s hand and the other was curled past the post. It was looking like one of those days prior to Pogba’s strike. It seemed a similar way in the game vs Wolves before Rashford’s deflected strike. In many ways, the parallels between both those games were a bit striking. But, as a United fan who grew up and lived in through the Fergie era, these are the games in which Champions find a way over the line. The big wins, in scoreline and opposition, are rightly credited with their importance but the wins against the tough opposition who make it as difficult as possible are as symptomatic as the winners of the league. Currently, United preside in the spot. Hopefully, it is something that continues for the rest of the year.