Thursday 14 December 2017

United win but style still missing

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.

Manchester United were described as "long-ball United" by West Ham manager Sam Allardyce after the sides' 1-1 draw at Upton Park on Sunday - an "interpretation" Red Devils boss Louis van Gaal, armed with a dossier of evidence, subsequently insisted was incorrect.

Here, Press Association Sport analyses United's performance in the game that followed, Wednesday's 3-1 win over Burnley at Old Trafford.


It would be unfair to suggest this was a United display that backed up Allardyce's comments about them playing long-ball football - such a tactic was not in abundant evidence.

But neither did it really do much to support any claims about their ability to attack in a vibrant, flowing manner.

And although there was certainly some smart play involved in the build-up to the hosts' goals, it is notable that the first two, both Chris Smalling headers, stemmed from corners.


For a long time, the most elegant piece of play from United had come when Wayne Rooney took a short corner to Angel Di Maria, who neatly exchanged passes with the England captain before chipping in a delightful cross that Smalling headed home to make it 2-1.

In general, the home side had struggled to fashion anything too elegant going forward - or indeed at all - due to some carelessness on their part and some fearless pressing from Burnley.

United finally started to get more of a grip on the game and put together some better passing moves, with Di Maria their key danger man.

It was a foul on the Argentina international during one late forward burst that prompted Kevin Friend to award the penalty which Robin van Persie converted to wrap up the victory.

United finished strongly and almost scored another as strikes from Adnan Januzaj and Di Maria were blocked, while Marouane Fellaini - the man whose introduction seemed to prompt a long-ball style from United at West Ham - remained on the bench.


United did enough to get the job done, but once again this was certainly not a vintage display from the Red Devils.

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