Romelu Lukaku’s brace eased some of the pressure on Jose Mourinho, and guided ten-man Manchester United to victory at Turf Moor.
In a game played against a backdrop of potential crisis at United, Jose Mourinho will be pleased with how his side handled Burnley, who are now winless four games into the season. United started brightly, and took the lead midway through the first half. Phil Bardsley gave Alexis Sanchez all the time in the world and the Chilean forward picked out Lukaku, who headed past Joe Hart.
Lukaku doubled United’s lead on the stroke of halftime, pouncing on a loose ball in the box after Jesse Lingard’s shot was blocked and slamming it into the net. The second-half continued in the same vein, with Marcus Rashford winning a penalty, that Paul Pogba placed too close to Hart. Rashford was then sent off after an altercation with Bardsley, who was lucky to not see red himself. Burnley, however, failed to truly threaten, and United saw out the eventful game and claimed a much-needed victory.
Here are five things we learned from the game:
Burnley’s European hangovers continue
It has been a rough start to the season for Sean Dyche’s men. Their campaign began before anyone else in the Premier League as they navigated the perils of the Europa League qualifiers, a reward for their excellent seventh placed finish last year. On Thursday, their run came to an end at the hands of Olympiacos, and though it is a shame they will not be progressing to the Europa League proper, it gives Burnley a chance to focus on their Premier League season. They have gotten off to a sluggish start, and sit 19th in the table with one point after four games. Dyche’s men have looked sluggish, and will welcome the international break as a chance to reset the season and start afresh.
Lukaku shines with the right service
Romelu Lukaku’s performance today was in sharp contrast to one’s against Brighton and Spurs. In those games he was frustrated, snatching at the chances that came his way. This is largely down to the poor service he received in those games from the rest of the Manchester United side. Against Burnley, he was utilised properly, with United taking advantage of Lukaku’s pace and power. When two chances presented themselves in the first half, the Belgian gladly obliged. Opposing teams know that keeping Lukaku isolated is the key to stopping United. Mourinho’s season will depend on his ability to set his team up to keep the big striker involved.
Hart ready to fight for his spot
With Tom Heaton just coming off a long-term injury, and Nick Pope ruled out in pre-season with a dislocated shoulder, questions were raised when Dyche signed Joe Hart. The England international’s stock has fallen in recent times, particularly after gaffe-filled performances at Torino, and an underwhelming season at West Ham. He was immense today, making vital saves from Lukaku to keep Burnley in the game, before springing to his right to stop Pogba’s penalty. Heaton may have started the game against Olympiacos, but Hart made it clear that he is not willing to give up his starting spot without a fight. After this performance, expect him to still be first choice in net following the international break.
Pre-game protest calls out Woodward
The United away support made it very clear where their loyalties lay in the alleged battle between Jose Mourinho and the Manchester United board. Before the defiant chants of “Jose Mourinho’s Red Army” could be heard, a plane flew over Turf Moor with a banner, which read “Ed Woodward Specialist In Failure”.
United fans were showing their displeasure with the executive vice-chairman, whose transfer market nous (or lack thereof) has brought him under increased scrutiny. Whatever happens over the course of the season, United fans have made their position known. If it comes down to Woodward or Mourinho, they will gladly choose the latter.
Fluidity from the front for United
One of the most encouraging signs of the day for United was the fluidity of their attacks. Lukaku would drop deep to pick up the ball, before laying it off to Sanchez or Lingard, who were encouraged to drift inside, pulling the fullbacks narrow. This opened up the wider areas of the pitch for Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia to bomb forward. The double pivot of Marouane Fellaini and Nemanja Matic gave Pogba the freedom to act as the conductor for these attacks in an advanced position, and led to the best United performance of the season so far. The defence was untested, but still remains a point of concern, so this fluidity was a welcome sign for United. If they want to keep winning, they may have to outscore their opponents as opposed to shutting them out.