Where was the game won and lost?
United set up with their customary Louis van Gaal 3-5-2 formation while Burnley went equally customary with Dyche opting 4-4-2 once again with an unchanged lineup.
United have real quality in their offensive stars. Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and Angel di Maria would walk into most Premier League teams while Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young offer a good turn of pace out wide. Make no mistake, they will feel should be walking a game like this at Turf Moor so why has it not worked for them so far this season and why did it not work today?
Louis van Gaal described Sean Dyche’s tactics prior to the match as involving lots of “long balls.” In some respects he was right, if hypocritical. Yes Burnley were very direct at times – and at times unnecessary I felt – however United were quite blatantly doing the same. The thinking behind Burnley’s directness will involve a number of things, entailing the fear of the brutal counter attack. With the likes of di Maria, Valencia and Young, United did have players with pace in their team this week and should Burnley lose possession in the middle of the park, they may be caught short at the back and the Premier League is a cruel division and games can change in a flash. By opting for long balls, it’s impossible to be counter-attacked because 90% of the other players are behind the ball.
Alternatively, United’s thinking behind their hoofing of the ball was more worrying. It told me that they had absolutely no confidence in playing through the middle, involving the likes of di Maria, Mata, Van Persie and Rooney. There was no cohesiveness in their play and the confidence collectively was obviously at a critical level, as you could see from the opening few minutes. It is worrying for their bid to climb the table.
So with all things considered, neither team could undo the other and the lack of finesse was costly for both teams.
David Jones, 3 mins – Sloppy from United initially to give the Clarets’ confidence and get the crowd behind them, Lukas Jutkiewicz was bundled down by Phil Jones just outside the box and Jones’ technique was fabulous – only to be denied by the bar. As a keeper, De Gea has no chance as he can only see the ball about ten yards from its original position and therfore cannot react to the strike. The technique is key here as Jones must get the ball up and over the wall from a close distance. A free kick from 35-40 yards requires much lesser technique.
Lukas Jutkiewicz, 5 mins – Burnley’s best chance squandered in my opinion. The usually reliable Jonny Evans epitomised the broken confidence and character in the United squad with a horrendous back pass to De Gea. De Gea himself is very hesitant out to the loose ball which is why Jutkiewicz should be taking the ball inside the keeper and striking at an empty goal. If De Gea tries to make amends for Evans he could quite easily give away a penalty and be dismissed. A prolific goalscorer makes the most of these chances, but the big man hasn’t found that knack yet, it seemed as though he did not want to be the man on the end of that ball, wanting rid of it instantly.
Robin van Persie, 20 mins – The Dutchman was the most likely all afternoon at Turf Moor and was unfortunate here. The Burnley defence should not allow a player of his calibre to latch onto a long, raking pass from di Maria. As it is, they did, and it required excellent reflexes from the arm of Tom Heaton to keep the scores level. The control and body shape of van Persie was of a top quality forward, even the finish was clean, so credit must go to Heaton for blocking.
David Jones, 27 mins – It was that man again in the thick of the action. Jones was abysmal I felt in the Chelsea defeat but has since made me eat my cruel words by bringing back his Championship style of performances. Here, you must question again the back three of United, with no one closing down Jones quick enough, giving him a free shot at goal. He duly obliged with a fierce volley which De Gea awkwardly parried over.
Robin van Persie 59 mins – It’s poor from Trippier down his side as he again delivers an underwhelming performance, fixing his eyes far too much on di Maria, which means he loses focus of the ball. This allows Di Maria to pick pocket the full back, race down the byline and deliver a cross. It’s cleared admirably from the Burnley defence although van Persie is on to the loose ball in a flash. His volleyed contact isn’t clean but it’s accurate and Heaton is beaten. Marney thankfully is on cue to block. Nothing to analyse other than admiration that he is willing to put his body on the line.
Things to consider: Deadline Day Special
1. Don’t let this important point paper over undeniable cracks! It was an impressive performance from Sean Dyche’s men but you would be naive to think the squad is able to properly compete without recruitment. Should David Jones or Dean Marney be unavailable for whatever reason, the only other out-and-out midfielder is Steven Hewitt! Likewise, if either Michael Duff or Jason Shackell picks up a knock, the centre back replacement is the raw Kevin Long, who again doesn’t inspire massive amounts of confidence. If nothing else, versatility or depth is needed massively.
2. Palace have Wilfred Zaha, Jason Puncheon and Yannick Bolasie, West Brom have Stephane Sessegnon and Sunderland have Adam Johnson. These are all clubs who are expected to be battling right down at the bottom with players who can make things happen for their respective clubs. Burnley do not have this type of player. Scott Arfield is showing vibes of top level quality but he cannot unlock a defence and win games by himself. The rumour mill is rife and the latest link is George Boyd of Hull. Boyd is certainly of that ilk, if not quite as exciting as the links of Henri Lansbury and Craig Bryson on the past, however with the mess that the board have made of this transfer market, beggars cannot be choosers and a move for Boyd may be a decent punt in context.
3. Is Matt Taylor a wide-man anymore? For much of last season with the Hammers he played as a central midfielder, a defensive midfielder and a left back but rarely at left midfield. At 32, Taylor just hasn’t got the pace, the trickery or the energy to take on his man at full back and cause problems. In many ways, playing Taylor against a frail United defence played into their hands, with Arfield exposing all their frailties on the other side.
4. Shouldn’t 4-4-2 be used if you have two strikers on goal-scoring form (or one providing for the other)? Currently, Danny Ings isn’t firing and Lukas Jutkiewicz continues to provide solid performances without an end product. So in my eyes, why not place Ings wider and put another man in the middle such as Taylor (defensive midfield), or a new signing?
Jason Shackell 8/10: It seems to be the trend but in my previous article, I gave him criticism, and this week, lo and behold he was largely excellent. He and Duff switched off the once to allow van Persie in behind once, however other than this, he lead by example and other than the chance I’ve mentioned, contained the frightening forwards of van Persie and Rooney.
Tom Heaton 7/10: Most comfortable match of the season for the former United keeper. Super save against van Persie.
Kieran Trippier 5/10: Hasn’t carried that attacking spark up from the Championship. Still struggling a tad defensively.
Michael Duff 7/10: Assisted Shackell well in keeping the attacking ranks in red at bay.
Ben Mee 6/10: Best performance of the new season for him but still requires improvement. Awful distribution.
Scott Arfield 7/10: The one man who can make something happen. Good again, but would be awesome with pace.
David Jones 8/10: Is rebuilding his superb form of last season. Dictated play in the middle and came close to scoring.
Dean Marney 7/10: Outshone by Jones but his workmanlike partnership with Jones is again key to the team.
Matt Taylor 5/10: Not necessarily bad but very cautious in his game and the game passed him by.
Danny Ings 5/10: Tireless work ethic let down by poor decision-making and dreadful distribution.
Lukas Jutkiewicz 6/10: Good display from the big man but again showing his lack of potency in good situations.
Angel di Maria 7/10: £60m man didn’t give a £60m performance that’s for sure and I still feel that fee will never be repaid by the Argentine. However, he was the only player in red who looked like he could create something. Tricky, hardworking and positive thinking but definitely not a miracle man for the falling champions.
De Gea 5, Blackett 6, Jones 6, Evans 5, Fletcher 6, Valencia 6, Mata 5, Young 5, van Persie 6, Rooney 5
Forget Selhurst Park after the international break, the next place Burnley need to be going is late night shopping on Monday!
What did you make of yesterday’s game? Comment below.