Monday 23 July 2018

Moving day for United

Burnley 0 Manchester United 1

Manchester United's Anthony Martial celebrates after scoring. Photo: Lindsay Parnaby/AFP Photo
Manchester United's Anthony Martial celebrates after scoring. Photo: Lindsay Parnaby/AFP Photo

Jamie Jackson

The final obstacle to completing the drawn-out Alexis Sánchez transfer to Manchester United was removed last night when Henrikh Mkhitaryan agreed to join Arsenal, clearing the way for Sanchez to move in the opposite direction in what is believed to be a straight swap.

Armenia international Mkhitaryan, 28, will have a medical today and tomorrow after the paperwork for his transfer was completed yesterday. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger had insisted that striker Sanchez, 29, would only join United if Mkhitaryan moved to Arsenal.

Jose Mourinho must hope that Sánchez will add some firepower in front of goal after his side were pushed close during the five minutes of injury time at the end as they hung on to the lead Anthony Martial's goal nine minutes into the second half had given them. And while it was a patchy victory they will hardly care.

United had to defend two corners and a free-kick, but they escaped and came away with three points that they just about deserved.

Sean Dyche made one change from the defeat at Crystal Palace, replacing Sam Vokes with Ashley Barnes. Having described Luke Shaw as among the finest left-backs currently playing on Friday, meanwhile, United's manager dropped him for Ashley Young.

While Mourinho explained that Young better suited Burnley, he configured the XI in a 4-1-4-1 that had Paul Pogba pushed ahead of Nemanja Matic. It was the Frenchman who posed the Clarets a first question, linking down the left with Martial before being shepherded out.

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho gestures on the touchline. Photo: Dave Thompson/PA Wire
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho gestures on the touchline. Photo: Dave Thompson/PA Wire

Moments later James Tarkowski should have done better with a header he steered wide of David de Gea's right post. Next, Young repaid his manager's faith with a chip into Pogba's path; the No 6 hit a first-time lob that beat Nick Pope but was too high.

Burnley had not won since moving briefly into fourth place with a 1-0 victory against Stoke here on 12 December, a run of seven matches. Yet despite picking up only three points in the sequence and losing their last two league games they were confident throughout. One move had Jeff Hendrick finding Johann Berg Gudmundsson but after the Icelander cut inside the shot was weak.

Virtually all of United's forays were occurring down the left. Juan Mata was Mourinho's nominated right-hand attacker yet he more than once appeared on the opposite flank. Lax defending allowed Gudmundsson a free header from a corner and when the Icelander's pace later allowed him to skate at United a flailing Jesse Lingard tackle was required to halt his progress.

As half-time approached United's performance had been fluid, yet scrappy near Pope's goal. They neared the interval with a moment of quality, a surge past two players taking Young close to the six-yard box, but his curled right-footed attempt missed the target. Martial then did an unwanted repeat after trading passes with Pogba. A soft-shoe shuffle created space but he hit the ball the wrong side of Pope's left post.

Manchester United's Romelu Lukaku shoots at goal. Photo: Jason Cairnduff/Action Images via Reuters
Manchester United's Romelu Lukaku shoots at goal. Photo: Jason Cairnduff/Action Images via Reuters

Mourinho will hardly have liked Lukaku's first contribution after the break. When being crowded out near the Burnley D he appealed to Michael Dean, the referee, for a free-kick, rather than chase back and having the debate after the passage of play ended. Better, though, was the way Matic fed Mata and his quickfire ball along the turf that won a corner, though nothing came of it.

United's opener was not long coming though, initiated by Phil Jones's fine intervention deep inside his own half. He looked up, found Lukaku, and after the No 9 bundled the ball into space he took advantage of this luck with a fine pass to Martial. The Frenchman stepped forward and smashed in an 11th goal of the season.

It warmed the packed away end on what was becoming a cold late afternoon. The rest of Turf Moor came close to the same feeling when Gudmundsson strode up to take a 25-yard free-kick but the ball crashed to safety off De Gea's bar.

Moments later the home support appealed for a penalty when Gudmundsson's header rebounded off Chris Smalling - it appeared marginal and Dean was unmoved.

From here the contest became more open. Pogba had an age on the ball as Lukaku implored him to slip it in behind Burnley but the midfielder chose to shoot and the danger fizzled out.

As is their way under Dyche, Burnley continued to play. An embarrassing moment for Lingard came when he was fouled by Stephen Defour near the touchline. Play continued and Lingard rolled off the pitch, only for Mourinho to spring from his seat and roll him back on, to widespread derision.

Burnley should have equalised when Barnes found Gudmundsson down the right. The cross flashed past De Gea but there was no team-mate to finish.

Near the end Pogba ignored Martial's run and again took aim when he should have passed but at the final whistle it did not prove costly. United had not dazzled but they got the job done, as they have to do in every match to retain any hope of catching City.

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