Saturday 23 September 2017

No long ball tactics but United unconvincing in overcoming Burnley challenge

Manchester United 4 Burnley1

Chris Smalling celebrates his second goal against Burnley at Old Trafford
Chris Smalling celebrates his second goal against Burnley at Old Trafford
Manchester United's Robin van Persie scores his team's third goal from a penalty against Burnley at Old Trafford.

Paul Hirst

Manchester United cut out the long-ball tactics but they still had to battle their way to a 3-1 win over Burnley at Old Trafford.

Chris Smalling scored 22 seconds after his introduction to put United ahead and the substitute put United 2-1 up after Danny Ings' spectacular diving header.

Burnley, whose team cost a fraction of Louis van Gaal's star-laden XI, had United on the ropes at times in the first half and comedy defending from Smalling and Ander Herrera should have resulted in an equaliser, but David de Gea saved the Red Devils once again.

Finally, Robin van Persie put the game to bed with an 82nd-minute penalty after Angel Di Maria was fouled in the box.

All the focus in the build-up to Wednesday's match had centred on Van Gaal's bizarre press conference stunt, which was designed to shoot down Sam Allardyce's claims about United's style of play.

Allardyce had referred to Van Gaal's team as "long-ball United" and Van Gaal responded by producing a dossier of statistics which supposedly undermined the Hammers manager's claims at a press conference on Tuesday.

There were few long-balls on Wednesday night - Marouane Fellaini did not step off the bench to add an aerial threat - but for large parts United were still not at their free-flowing best.

The fact that Wayne Rooney was moved to the base of United's midfield diamond following an injury to Daley Blind did not help.

Manchester United's Robin van Persie scores his team's third goal from a penalty against Burnley at Old Trafford.
Manchester United's Robin van Persie scores his team's third goal from a penalty against Burnley at Old Trafford.

Still, Van Gaal will point to the Barclays Premier League table, which states his team are now third - one point ahead of Southampton and two in front of Arsenal.

Press Association

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