Friday 26 December 2014

Di Maria fails to inspire United as Van Gaal's winless streak continues

Burnley 0 Manchester United 0

Published 30/08/2014 | 14:47

Manchester United's Wayne Rooney reacts during the Barclays Premier League match at Turf Moor
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney reacts during the Barclays Premier League match at Turf Moor
Manchester United's Angel Di Maria in action as Burnley's Kieran Trippier at Turf Moor

Louis van Gaal's problems mounted at Turf Moor as Angel di Maria hobbled off injured in Manchester United's uninspiring 0-0 draw with Burnley.

Van Gaal, who watched his team get hammered by MK Dons in midweek, stretched his winless streak to four matches after another poor display - this time at the home of Barclays Premier League newcomers Burnley, who were torn apart here by Chelsea on the opening weekend of the season.

Robin van Persie's second-half shot was cleared off the line, but otherwise United had very few chances despite the fact that they had the Holland striker, Di Maria, Rooney and Juan Mata on the pitch for most of the match.

Jonny Evans and Antonio Valencia were guilty of making potentially costly defensive errors and David de Gea also had to make a few impressive saves to deny the Clarets, who picked up their first point of the campaign.

Until he went off, Di Maria was by far United's best player.

The British record signing speared a number of long passes from deep, but Van Persie and Rooney both had off days up front and could not convert, and his pace caused problems too.

The sight of the former Real Madrid man hobbling off clutching his right leg in the second half will be a concern for Van Gaal, who paid £59.7million for the Argentina international four days ago.

United announced they had agreed a fee with Ajax for Daley Blind before kick-off, but, on this evidence, it will take much more than one new player to reinvigorate the Red Devils.

Di Maria, playing in a midfield three alongside Mata and a slightly deeper Darren Fletcher, received a hero's welcome from the away fans as he took to the pitch, but he was marginalised early on as Burnley took control from the off.

With less than three minutes gone, United handed the hosts a good chance to score and they almost took it.

Phil Jones barged over Lukas Jutkiewicz to earn a free-kick right on the edge of the box.

David Jones beat De Gea with a curling effort from the resulting set-piece, but the ball struck the bar and bounced out to safety.

Soon after Burnley were gifted their second opportunity when Evans, in an almost identical error to the one he committed at MK Dons on Tuesday, sold De Gea short with a backpass, but the Spaniard came out to block Jutkiewicz's shot.

Di Maria then produced his first bit of magic to spark United into life.

The Argentinian lofted a 40-yard ball over the top of the home defence and Van Persie cushioned the ball perfectly on his chest, but he mis-hit his volley.

De Gea was called into action again, racing out of his box to clear just in time after a defensive mix-up.

Burnley continued to look the more dangerous side.

De Gea parried a swirling volley from Jones shortly after watching Scott Arfield head over from close range.

Any hopes of a United goal seemed to rest on Di Maria's shoulders.

The former Real Madrid midfielder kept the Burnley back four on their toes with his pace and trickery on the attack and he was also proving effective from deep.

Di Maria picked out Rooney with another long diagonal ball. The United and England captain prodded the ball to Van Persie, but Jason Shackell intervened.

Fletcher, looking increasingly isolated in midfield, was booked for tugging Danny Ings' shirt.

United started to come into the game a bit more towards the end of the first half. Ashley Young went down in the box under pressure from Kieran Trippier, but Chris Foy waved play on.

After a dull opening five minutes of the second half, United created a couple of good chances, but once again they could not find the net.

Dean Marney saved Van Persie's shot on the line after a good run from Di Maria.

The Dutchman spurned another chance soon after, heading Fletcher's chipped pass onto the roof of the net.

Then came a sight no United fan wanted to see - Di Maria down on the floor holding his right leg. The player got back to his feet after treatment, but moments later Van Gaal took his record signing off and replaced him with Anderson.

It was a move that showed just how desperately short United are on quality.

Van Persie was then replaced by Danny Welbeck up front.

United's lack of concentration at the back remained Van Gaal's biggest worry, though.

Valencia carelessly played the ball straight to the unmarked Arfield on the edge of his own box, but he failed to beat De Gea.

At the other end Mata, who was having a day to forget, ploughed the ball high and wide. The Spaniard came off for Adnan Januzaj with four minutes to go.

In the dying stages United thought they should have had a penalty when Young's shot appeared to hit Ashley Barnes' arm, but Foy was not interested and the game petered out into a draw.

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