The last game of a tumultuous year at Old Trafford saw the fans end with somewhat of a smile in eerily quiet game. The Clarets from Lancashire made it a contest, a more difficult one than it should have been, yet the score line was comfortable. McTominay opened the scoring, against the run of play, with a well struck shot in the corner. The score was doubled after a Sancho shot had a small deflection from Ben Mee to push it into the net. The third came quickly after as Hennessy saved a McTominay shot but Ronaldo was on hand to put the ball in the back of the net. A mistake from both the CBs, Bailly’s one being more culpable, saw Lennon put one past De Gea and the scoring stopped there. The game lulled for the rest of the 50 minutes, where both sides had chances. In the end, it was kind of how the scoreline suggested, even if the moments in which the goals were scored didn’t reflect that. A strange game to sum up a strange year for the Red Devils. Roll on 2022.
The appointment of Ralf Rangnick and his subsequent movement upstairs to consult on decisions that Man Utd will make in the near future is a clear attempt to drag the team into the future. This was after the failed restoration project of Solskjaer. The German has been referred to as the Godfather of Gegenpress, the pressing style that took the country by storm in the late 2000s/early 2010s. It’s a style not particularly in keeping with United’s history but it is one that all the better teams employ to some effect. That’s off the ball though and with its particular proclivities, that’ll take a while to implement. On the ball however, less was known on how Rangnick would play. So far, it has been difficult to pin down a certain way of playing. If it is anything like it was tonight, it would be a lot more agricultural than the modern methods we see today.
Some of the players that came in today, Bailly, Matic, Shaw and Cavani, height was clearly an important factor and one thought it was to deal with the problems that Burnley would give in offensive situations. But whenever United got the ball, the option to go long and skip out the midfield was taken more often than you would expect. Goal kicks from De Gea, who would usually be flanked by the two CBs on the six yard box, were sent away so he could punt it forward to one of the front men. And there is a difference between going direct, which is something that Old Trafford is used to, than going long. Going direct is more like the wonderful pick out from Shaw to Ronaldo in the opening minutes, which the Portuguese record scorer fluffed uncharacteristically. Going long is were several long punts that came from the goalkeeper and centre backs. It makes sense when you consider all the problems that Man Utd have had in the middle of the park to not build through the centre or build carefully through the thirds. It allows the central midfielders more time to get set and not get caught in compromising positions. The few times that we did build through there, Aaron Lennon got massive joy from pressurising and nicking balls off them to get Burnley on the counter attack. In the future, it would be less well received from the faithful and pundits if this style was to continue. More will need to be done in advancing our combinations and ball circulation but as for being able to get a win, it was a viable tactic that seemed to work.
Hot Shot Scotty
The Scotsman was caught once, unaware, in the middle of the park by Lennon in the aforementioned fashion. Outside of that though, the Scotsman was actually quite excellent off and, more surprisingly, on the ball. Three times, he would wrap his right foot around the ball to curl it into the net. The first time, low and under pressure, he swept it into the bottom corner. The second, towards the upper part of the net, was pushed onto the post by Hennessy, which left an open goal for Ronaldo to put in the net. The third, the former Palace keeper was finally able to get a glove on it and it not still result in a goal. It has been something we have known about McTominay, whereby him playing as a sitting midfielder does not bring out the best of his ability. However, by emptying out the space in front of him, so it is more of an old fashioned midfield pair, it means that he is able to join attacks late. He doesn’t have to worry about the space behind him as much as the spaces are meant to be compressed by the team shape. With his wonderfully fit ability to cover ground quickly and continuously, it means he is even more of a nightmare for the opposition when they have it. Outside of the Palace game, he has been one of the better players under Rangnick in his other games and today was only different in that he was far away the best out of all of those in a red shirt.